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Sinn Fein question Alliance support for ‘Big Brother’

22 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson Martina Anderson MLA has question the Alliance Party's support for the draconian and unaccountable 'Schengen Agreement' that fundamentally undermines civil rights.

Speaking ahead of an Assembly debate on the Shengen Agreement, Ms Anderson said:

"Sinn Féin fully support international co-operation where this is necessary to fight crime and in particular drugs, guns and human trafficking. We are also fully in favour of the free movement of individuals throughout Europe.

"However, this is not what Schengen will deliver. The Schengen Information System (SIS) is already in place in many countries throughout Europe. The unaccountable nature of Schengen has drawn consistent criticism from respected human rights organisations.

"The second generation of this system consists of a centralised database containing a wealth of information about the citizens of the various nations which sign up to it.

"According to the leading watchdog Statewatch, this information will include so-called 'intelligence' and supposition. Effectively, Schengen is an invisible, unaccountable, European-wide electronic network of truly Orwellian proportions.

"Supporters of Schengen claim it is a replacement for the physical barriers of old - an effective method of allowing freedom of movement while maintaining security. But with virtually no democratic control or oversight, the use and operation of the SIS has grown more and more ominous and there is evidence of it being abused to suppress legitimate political opposition.

"A well documented example is that of a Greenpeace member from New Zealand who was en route to that organisation's Amsterdam headquarters only to be turned back at Schipol airport because the French had entered an alert for her based on her anti-nuclear testing activism.

"And despite the rhetoric that Shengen as an essential safeguard against cross-border organized crime, the system has, in reality, been used overwhelmingly for the tracking and exclusion of immigrants. According to statistics released in 1998, 80% of the1.2 million SIS entries regarded non-Europeans who should be deported and/or rejected at the common external EU frontier.

"All Schengen has actually achieved is to replace the physical frontiers of old with an even more repressive digital barrier.

"Sinn Féin supports any measure which genuinely combats international crime and assists the freedom of movement. However, any such system must be accompanied by the necessary accountability and checks and balances to ensure that is not abused. Schengen clearly does not meet this basic democratic standard and I will therefore be opposing this motion." ENDS

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