Between 14 and 16th November 2011, Australia and Sri Lanka Co-Chaired the Bali Process Ad Hoc Group: Technical Experts Working Group on Irregular Movement by Air held in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
In attendance were representatives from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Australia, Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Philippines, 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). Canada and the United Kingdom attended the meeting as observers.
The Co-Chairs welcomed the Philippines, the United States of America and Vietnam as new members to the Bali Process Ad Hoc Group and noted that Canada is considering AHG membership. Furthermore, the Co-chairs confirmed the outcomes from the Ad Hoc Group Senior Officials meeting held in Sydney in October 2011 which endorsed the expanded mandate for the Working Group to include irregular movement by land and sea moving forward.
The key theme of the meeting was ‘effective removal strategies for people refused entry’ with particular focus on the need for increased vigilance to ensure visa and other entry processes are informed by threat and risk assessments. Focus was also placed on strategies to return people refused entry requires the development of relationships with neighbouring, transit and source countries.
Participating countries shared their strategies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) used to address irregular arrivals and return mechanisms. Discussions focused on the following themes:
- The need to incorporate Convention on International Civil Aviation (ICAO) Convention obligations in national border legislation noting that some countries have not included its obligations in their domestic legislation.
- The need to share information and immigration intelligence on irregular movements, including modus operandi and trends.
- All countries highlighted the difficulty in obtaining travel documents to effect removals.
- Most countries emphasised the need for higher levels of training for their supervisors and operational staff at entry points.
- The US presented its priorities, responsibilities and challenges in obtaining travel documents in a timely manner to ensure legal requirements around immigration detention are met and removals can be effected.
- Australia discussed the problem of African nationals who have entered the region on a variety of visas.
- UNHCR highlighted that among irregular arrivals there could be persons with international protection needs.
In terms of the Regional Immigration Liaison Officer Network (RILON), participants welcomed progress reports from India, Sri Lanka and Thailand on their recent RILON meetings and planned future work programs.
IOM reported on the establishment of the Bali Process secure website portal with participants highlighting the benefits of members actively contributing information for sharing via the website.
Participants agreed on the following action items:
- To seek in-principle endorsement from their respective governments to the establishment of a training program to be delivered at an existing immigration institute/academy within the region.
- To rename of the working group to the “Technical Experts Working Group on Irregular Movements”.
- To ensure immigration officers and airline authorities at airports are fully aware of their obligations under the ICAO Convention.
- To engage with airlines at the last port of embarkation to explore options to record details of travel documentation being presented by high-risk groups to board flights.
- Countries will review their visa on arrival regimes based on informed threat and risk assessments.
- To raise awareness of the importance of enhanced visa integrity processes to improve visa decision making.
- To establish better communication channels with consulates, embassies and international transport hubs.
- To create opportunities to undertake immigration decision-making while clients are offshore.
- To continue multilateral cooperation to share best practices around removal frameworks and escalation processes to establish identity and obtain travel documents.