Cyprus is a step closer to joining the Schengen Area, but it has not done so yet – meaning that full checks still apply to all who enter and leave, the interior ministry has clarified.

Reports on Wednesday stated that human trafficking networks have begun to falsely claim that those who arrive irregularly in Cyprus will be able to legally move on to other Schengen member states, such as Italy, France and Germany.

The trafficking networks appear to have jumped on Monday’s report that Cyprus gained access to the Schengen Information System (SIS).

However, they falsely claim that checks have since been suspended.

Indeed, the interior ministry clearly stated that is not the case.

“Checks at the internal borders with other Schengen member states have not been lifted, both for Republic of Cyprus citizens and other EU nationals, as well as third country nationals,” the ministry said.

“Until Cyprus joins the Schengen Area, Cyprus will continue – as before – to conduct checks on arriving and departing passengers at all crossing points.”

Notably, however, Cyprus is committed by treaty to join the Schengen Area in the future – although there is no clear timetable.

But Monday’s report on Cyprus’ access to the Schengen Information System (SIS) explained it is indeed the final step before full accession to the Schengen Area.

Director of the Cyprus Sirene (Supplementary Information Requested at the National Entries) bureau, Dora Nikandrou told Philenews that Cyprus’ full integration into the Schengen Area must be approved by a unanimous decision – emphasising that access to the information system does not mean automatic inclusion.

To qualify for the lifting of controls at common borders with the other Schengen states, the cycle of Schengen evaluations in all areas must be completed.

The SIS/Sirene introduction is the last area to be evaluated and the country must implement all recommendations made during the evaluation period. Subsequently, the matter will be brought before the EU ministerial council.

Access to SIS means Cyprus now has the files of 90 million people, among them are persons who are wanted, have disappeared, are vulnerable, or against whom an extradition order has been issued (third-country nationals).

Access to information on items confiscated, such as stolen, lost, or forged documents, will also be enabled.

This means that wanted or missing persons will be able to be immediately located in Cyprus, from the moment of their registration in SIS, with the customs, road transport, deputy shipping ministry and civil aviation departments gaining visibility.

SIS is the fastest data transfer system in Europe and will reduce processing time, from days to minutes, for information shared between the authorities of different states.