Between 11 and 14 June 2012, Malaysia and Australia Co-Chaired the fourth Ad Hoc Group (AHG) Technical Experts Working Group on Irregular Movements held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In attendance were representatives from Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Australia, Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives, Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kingdom of Thailand, United States of America, and Vietnam as well as representatives from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Representatives from Canada, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom also attended the meeting. Co-Chairs welcomed Hong Kong as special guest to this AHG meeting.
The meeting focused on irregular movements across land, riverine and air borders and associated challenges faced by members.
The Co-Chairs noted the Bali Process’ landmark consensus from 2011 for members to share the burden of managing irregular movements in the Asia Pacific region by endorsing the Regional Cooperation Framework. They further the expressed support of the establishment of a Regional Support Office aimed to realise members’ aspirations to collectively address this issue in a holistic manner.
Participating countries presented in line with two separate themes. Day one focussed on irregular movements across land and riverine borders with Canada, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States of America and Vietnam discussing the porous nature of often remote and extended land and riverine borders and difficulties of applying appropriate measures to combat irregular movements along the entirety of the border.
Separately, Australia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka focussed on air environment noting the importance of increased immigration information and intelligence sharing and the need for joint cooperation at airports. Australia highlighted the advantages of multilayered approaches to immigration border management. Sri Lanka was seeking to implement a similar approach around their newly introduced electronic travel authorisation using elements of the advanced passenger processing concept. The Maldives noted that threat and risk analysis is essential to effectively target high risk travel and ensure low risk travellers are facilitated.
In the context of breakout rooms, participants considered the proposed Regional Training Program – an outcome of the Third meeting of the Technical Experts Working Group on Irregular Movements held in Negombo, Sri Lanka on 14-16 November 2011. They noted that more clarity was needed on the proposal to move forward with decisions and training efforts should concentrate on technical and operational capabilities.
In terms of the Regional Immigration Liaison Officer Network (RILON), Sri Lanka shared its successful implementation in Colombo and shared an overview of the establishment and progress of their group. Maldives highlighted the need for greater emphasis by RILON groups to be placed on the sharing of timely information and intelligence to disrupt irregular movements. Australia updated members on the upcoming innaugural meeting of the Kuala Lumpur RILON meeting held on 15 June 2012.
Hong Kong, a special guest at the meeting briefed participants on activities to detect and address irregular movements at their international airport and the associated ferry network servicing the airport from multiple locations including Macau and mainland China. They emphasised the importance placed on establishing strong relationships with diplomatic missions and Airline Liaison Officer (ALO) networks which operate at Hong Kong International Airport. Hong Kong highlighted the positive outcomes achieved from distributing timely information and intelligence reports to other agencies and their international partners to warn them of potential irregular movements.
IOM updated on progress made on the establishment of the Bali Process secure portal for effective exchange of data (SPEED) expected to be operational in July 2012 and the Document Examination Support Center (DESC) supporting front line officers in their decision-making processes on questionable travel documents.
Members agreed on the following action items:
- Australia and the Maldives will develop a questionnaire to survey including individual country training needs, training capacities and identify relevant expertise that could be drawn upon to facilitate a Regional Training Program. This would be circulated to members in July 2012, with an expected result by August 2012. Ultimately, this would inform the direction and scope of the training proposal. UNHCR offered to participate as facilitation in an expert capacity in training activities pertaining to refugee protection in the context of mixed migration movements.
- Members agreed to establish a working group of relevant immigration training experts to further explore possible training modules and curriculum based around the detailed survey questionnaire.
- Members agreed that the AHG Technical Experts Working Group would be the appropriate group to discuss proposed guidelines on the content to be included in the Bali Process secure web portal.
- Participants will reconvene in six months time.