Field-Based Officials Meeting
The first consultations at the field level of regional migration and border guard officials within the East-Central European Four-Country Cross-Border Co-operation Enhancement (Söderköping) Process were held in the border city of Brest on 14-16 November 2001. The event aimed to initiate a second tire of activities within the process at the working level, thus to complement consultations at the senior level and to provide officials from bordering countries with an opportunity to improve cross-border contacts and regional co-operation, identify needs and gaps in their national capacities, and attain better knowledge of refugee law and international standards on the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
The event was attended by regional migration and border guard officials from Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, and from Moldova as an observer, as well as by representatives of UNHCR, the SMB and IOM.
UNHCR and the SMB introduced the Söderköping process to the participants. IOM presented a similar initiative which had been developing in the Baltic Sea Region with a focus on promoting co-operation in combating irregular migration and related cross-border crime. Country representatives delivered presentations on functioning of their border management and asylum systems and interaction with neighbouring states. The presentations were followed by discussions and training sessions in working groups on access to the refugee status determination procedure, readmission of asylum seekers, and treatment of child and female asylum seekers.
During the general discussion in plenary, the participants emphasised the need for:
more attention to the Ukrainian-Belarusian border due to the reinforced control at the Polish-Belarusian border;
more mobile forms of border control;
technical assistance from the EU and its members to allow the countries on the eastern side of the new EU border to harmonise their capacities with their immediate western neighbours;
detention facilities for irregular migrants corresponding to humanitarian standards in Belarus and Ukraine apart from accommodation/reception facilities for asylum seekers and refugees;
consideration of the actual and potential role of NGOs in helping meet the humanitarian needs of asylum seekers and detained irregular migrants.