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European Commission to take control of Schengen visa control system

System will allow states to exchange data by connecting their consulates across the region

The European Commission is to take over the management of its recently deployed visa information system, which allows nations to share visa data on short-stay and transit visits.

The system was commissioned by the European Commission's Directorate General for Home Affairs, and allows Schengen States to exchange data by connecting their consulates in non-EU countries and all external border crossing points across the region.

The Schengen Area encompasses 26 countries with additional regions joining on a regular basis, including Liechtenstein which is due to join very shortly.

The system was originally deployed by a consortium of suppliers led by outsourcer Steria last October, on behalf of the European Commission.

The visa system is currently processing an average of 4,000 visa applications per day with up to 11,000 applications handled on a "peak" day, said the European Commission.

The platform helps in "combating and preventing fraudulent behaviours", said the European Commission, which includes "visa shopping" - the practice of making further visa applications to other EU States when a first application has been rejected. This practice has been linked to activities such as human trafficking and terrorism.

Steria said: "Given the large number of stakeholders involved and the political sensitivities surrounding the implementation and the system itself, the European Commission will take over the management of this system from the end of 2012, and will naturally continue to monitor operations carefully."

Steria was responsible for integrating all middleware and co-contractor HP took charge of infrastructure and business continuity. Other suppliers were also involved from the inception of the project in planning it.

Technology holding the system together includes Oracle databases, IBM servers and Cisco network switches.

Steria previously implemented the Eurodac project for the European Commission, which is designed to improve the management of asylum requests through biometric processing of fingerprints in 16 EU countries.

In other recent immigration control news, the UK Border Agency's systems for measuring the amount of students entering the country were slammed by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In a report, the PAC said the UK Border Agency introduced its new points based system for students before proper controls were in place to replace the old ones, leading to "chaos". As a result it said larger numbers of migrants who had no intention to study had applied for student visas to enable them to work illegally in the UK.


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