In the last two decades, in the wake of globalization, movements of people and goods have tremendously increased, calling for the adaptation of immigration and border management structures to better and more efficiently manage people flows and trade. As a consequence, States have been and still are confronted with a common challenge: facilitate movement of legitimate people and goods while maintaining secure borders. In other words, ensure the right balance between open, but at the same time controlled borders.
Border agencies – usually customs, border police and immigration services – are the ones responsible for the processing of people and goods at points of entry and exit, as well as for the detection and regulation of people and goods attempting to cross borders illegally. Efficient border and immigration management policies and structures, supported by professional and well trained immigration and border officers, foster smooth movement management at borders and prevent irregular migration, but also enable to detect smuggled migrants and trafficked persons with the ultimate objective of dismantling organized crime networks and protecting the rights of these vulnerable persons.
Conscious of the implications of inefficient border management, governments and donors are taking up the challenge and investing more and more in border management reform.
IOM Minsk activity in Migration and Border Management
Since the moment of the Mission’s foundation back in 1996 IOM Minsk has been actively cooperating with the Government of Belarus and non-governmental/international institutions to strengthen the country’s migration and border management capacity through the provision of educational (trainings) and technical (equipment) assistance to the state authorities, operating in this domain. Amongst IOM’s main project partners/beneficiaries in Belarus were/are the Department for citizenship and migration of the Ministry of Interior (DCM MoU), the International cooperation department of the State Border Committee (ICD SBC) and the State Customs Committee (SCC).
Apart from the key project stakeholders, IOM also productively cooperates with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Executive Committee of CIS (CIS ExCom), residing in Minsk. On the international level in the CBMM sphere IOM Minsk established positive working relations with the UN umbrella organizations, such as UNDP and UNHCR, as well as the InternationalCenter for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), headquartered in Vienna. These international structures act as IOM project partners in several ongoing projects in Belarus.
Overview of previous activity
The first CBMM project ever conducted in Belarus dates back to 1999-2001 when IOM Minsk successfully implemented a cross-border regional “Belarus-Ukraine common border management project”, funded by USA and Switzerland and targeted at the development and institutionalization of comprehensive border and migration management systems. The overall objective of that project was to create a unified border management system and increase operational capacity of the management of migration processes and migration flows, to improve effectiveness of Belarus-Ukraine border control, provide the State Border Committee and other concerned agencies with up-to-date border management systems and devices.
Within the framework of this project a stable radio communication exchange system between border units was installed, the monitoring and detection system was deployed along the “green border”, and the equipment for developing information networks and data exchange was forwarded to the Border Guards and Ministry of the Interior detachments. Moreover, a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) was established with a view to centralize the assessment of monitoring and detection data, to integrate communication within the common border test area and to coordinate response management. The result of the project was the development and extension of cooperation ties between the state bodies of Belarus and Ukraine for enhancing efficiency of migration management.
Throughout 2004-2009 IOM Minsk together with the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Embassy of the CzechRepublic in Minsk implemented a Labor Migration project “Selection of Qualified Foreign Workers to the Czech Republic”. IOM Minsk was mainly responsible for organizing information campaigns for the potential and interested labor migrants from Belarus to the Czech Republic, distributing information about the job seeking opportunities through local media (press, radio, TV, internet), production and distribution of leaflets for potential migrants, provision of info-line counseling services to the population, as well as verification of documents (mainly university diplomas) of the Belarusian citizens who applied for permanent residence status in the Czech Republic.
In 2007-2009 IOM Minsk implemented a large-scale EU-funded project “Strengthening migration management capacity in the Republic of Belarus” (MIGRABEL). The action targeted at the creation of preconditions for the country’s ultimate transition to the application of biometric (e-) passports and visas in Belarus in line with the latest internationally agreed (ICAO) standards, enhancing internal controls to curb irregularities in passport and visa issuance, with a view to facilitate free movement of persons and fight cross-border crime related to travel documents.
As a result of a successful implementation of the action the following results were attained:
- Legislative overview and assessment of the existing travel documents legislation in Belarus carried out and international best practice guidelines published; legislative needs assessment results and recommendations presented to relevant governmental officials; legal seminar for the authorities of Belarus conducted;
- Technical passport needs assessment and technical requirements report published to review organizational structure and identify gaps of the immigration and passport units; computer hardware and software needs for automated MRTD operation identified;
- Trainings for the relevant GoB personnel conducted, including document security training, ToT for instructors in biometric applications, legal seminar, International biometric conference in Minsk and 5 networking visits to EU MS to familiarize with the work of the state agencies and private companies responsible for the production and issuance of biometric passports (Germany, UK, France, Austria, Switzerland).
- Equipment for the 7 (6 regional and 1 HQ) passport issuance bureaus procured, installed and launched into operation to enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Interior of Belarus.
As a main practical outcome of the project, the Government of Belarus has produced a sample of the first Belarusian electronic passport and adopted plans for a gradual implementation of a full-fledged e-passport program.
In 2011-2012 IOM Minsk implemented the first in the countries’ history joint Belarusian-Armenian project “Assistance in the development of border plenipotentiaries systems in Belarus and Armenia” (ARBEL) aimed at strengthening the capacities of Belarus and Armenia border agencies in managing their borders in the field of settlement of border incidents and overall migration management. The project developed and introduced common standards in the training of plenipotentiary (so-called ‘border delegates’) staff; provided technical support (equipment) and expert advice to the plenipotentiaries of the two states; improved facilities for training of Belarus plenipotentiary staff.
As a result, there was significantly improved the system of border plenipotentiaries in both countries. To achieve this, the following activities were undertaken:
- Publication of manuals on the solution of border incidents for both countries;
- Development of training course on sustaining the state border regime;
- Setting up one specialized class of border plenipotentiaries in Belarus;
- Organization of a study visit to a Finland (namely to the Finnish-Russian border) for border representatives of Belarus and Armenia;
- Regional seminar for border representatives of both countries in Brest (Belarus);
- Provision of technical equipment for the border plenipotentiary offices of both states.
Ongoing and pipeline projects
In May 2012 IOM Minsk commenced another 2-year regional Belarus-Ukraine EU-funded border management project “Strengthening surveillance capacity on the green and blue border between Belarus and Ukraine” (SURCAP), called to help the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine strengthen their surveillance and border control capacities along their common borderline and enhance overall coordination between border agencies, as well as customs, at border checkpoints (BCP) and along the green and blue borders.
This project is supplementing direct equipment procurement by the EU with a number of expert missions, networking visits to EU member-states, regional trainings for border and customs, as well as the development of national training modules for border personnel. The proposed action includes a number of specialized activities aimed at addressing technical and practical needs/gaps of the Belarusian and Ukrainian regional border units and detachments responsible for the protection of the Belarus-Ukraine green and blue border.
In September 2012 IOM Minsk was selected by EU as a main implementing agency for another regional international intervention, this time involving – actually for the first time – the Customs authorities of Belarus and Ukraine. In response, the Mission developed and submitted to the Donor a project proposal “Support to the creation of electronic system of pre-arrival information exchange between the customs authorities of Belarus and Ukraine” (PRINEX). The project will supposedly last for 2.5-3 years and consist of two major components:
- Provision of capacity building activities (mainly study visits, trainings and workshops) and
- Development of a reliable and secure information exchange system, supply and installation of equipment and software.
As a result of the project’s implementation, the pre-arrival information exchange system between the customs authorities of the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine will be installed and activated at the designated border crossing points and SCC BY and SCSU HQs. This electronic system will allow economic actors in one of the partner countries to submit electronic declarations to the corresponding customs authorities (when exporting the goods to the other partner country), and electronic transit declarations (while transiting through the other partner country), as well as to send electronic pre-arrival (preliminary) information letters, prepared with the help of the electronic system, to the customs authorities of the other partner country in case of exporting, or to the customs authorities of any third country in the case of transport via transit.
At the moment IOM Minsk is intensifying efforts to strengthen the capacity of the state agencies of the Republic of Belarus responsible for migration (Ministry of Interior), border (State Border Committee) and customs (State Customs Committee) management, following the standards and principles of the Integrated Border Management (IBM) approach in order to modernize the national migration/border/customs management system in line with the latest international practices and techniques.