The Government has decided to opt in to a new EU proposal for a Regulation to establish a centralised system for the identification of Member States holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (TCN) (“the draft Regulation”). This draft Regulation aims to supplement and support the existing European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) so that Member States can more effectively obtain the EU-wide criminality history of TCNs.
ECRIS already allows for the exchange of criminal records information across the EU and establishes an EU-wide offending history for EU nationals. It supports effective criminal justice decisions which ensure that relevant public protection measures are considered. Whilst ECRIS is well established in obtaining criminal records information in respect of EU nationals, it does not lend itself to efficient exchange with regard to TCNs. This is because Member States must send requests to all Member States individually in order to capture all EU criminality.
To address this, the new draft Regulation will create a centralised identification system which will allow Member States to make searches to identify the Member State or States who hold conviction information on TCNs and envisages the existing ECRIS decentralised mechanism being relied upon to then request this information from the relevant Member State(s). This draft Regulation therefore will increase the efficiency of the process and help ensure that our law enforcement agencies have more information available to them when they encounter TCNs than they do at present.
Eu-LISA is an EU Agency that manages certain Justice and Home Affairs IT systems that the UK takes part in, including EURODAC (the EU’s system for storing the fingerprints of asylum seekers and certain illegal migrants) and the Second-Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II, which we take part in for police and judicial cooperation purposes and which allows the circulation of law enforcement alerts in real time across the EU).
The draft eu-LISA Regulation would repeal and replace the current Regulation governing the Agency, making a number of changes. These include giving eu-LISA responsibility for managing the proposed ECRIS-TCN system (as well as a number of new measures that we do not take part in as they build on the border and immigration aspects of Schengen); making minor amendments to its governance; and other amendments around data quality and the interoperability of systems.
Because eu-LISA manages, or will manage, some systems that build on the Schengen aquis (for example, SIS II) and some that do not (EURODAC and the proposed ECRIS-TCN system), the draft Regulation governing it engages both our Justice and Home Affairs opt-in and our opt-out from measures building on the policing and judicial cooperation aspects of Schengen.
The Government believes it is in the national interest to continue participating in eu-LISA, as this will maximise our influence over how it operates the IT systems that we take part in and for which it is responsible. We have therefore decided to opt in to the draft eu-LISA Regulation to the extent that it is not Schengen-building and not to opt out to the extent that it builds on the policing and judicial cooperation aspects of Schengen.
Until the UK leaves the EU it remains a full member, and the Government will continue to consider the application of the UK’s right to opt in to, or opt out of, forthcoming EU legislation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting our civil liberties, and enhancing our ability to control immigration.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: