EU Court of Auditors Calls out Flaws in Schengen Border Control IT Systems, Highlights Need for More Timely and Complete Data

Schengen Visa Fingerprint scan border security Interpol

The European Court of Auditors has come up with findings that while the IT systems employed in the Schengen operated border control are strong tools designed to effectively execute the tasks of the border control agency, there are improvement areas that need to be addressed immediately. 

According to the European Court of Auditors in its press release on November 11, 2019, the five IT systems currently installed are increasingly being used by border guards in their surveillance of the Schengen’s external borders. However these systems – Schengen Information System, European Border Surveillance System, Visa Information System, European Asylum Dactyloscopy Database and Passenger Name Record – need to be promptly updated and the data completed in a timelier manner by each EU Member State.  

In the audit report, it was pointed out that the IT systems are useful tools that can facilitate border guards’ checks on individuals entering Schengen territory through authorized border points. Border guards use them more frequently in the course of performing border checks. However, it was also observed that some data is missing in the systems while the rest is incomplete or not recorded promptly. These irregularities render some border checks less efficient.       

In its press release, the court states that “Border guards do not always get timely and complete data from the systems. When they check a name, they may receive hundreds of results – mainly false positives, which they must verify manually. This not only makes border checks less efficient but also increases the risk of overlooking real hits.

Bettina Jakobsen, a member of the European Court of Auditors who initiated the report, opines that there are some instances when the decision whether an individual should be allowed to enter or prohibited to let through the Schengen Zone is compromised for lack of available information.

Our audit aimed at identifying aspects in the design and use of these systems that can help border guards do their job more efficiently,” she explains.

The report warns of possible problems between the Member States with the delayed transmission of data. It cited the example where delayed fingerprint transmission may result in a country that is not in any way involved in the processing of asylum applications being erroneously held responsible for it. Finally, the Court suggests the following action items to the European Council with regards to the Schengen border control IT systems: promote IT systems training; check inconsistencies in the visa check procedure; enhance procedure to improve the quality of data and make data entry timely.

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