The meeting on information and communication technology (ICT) use in migration management held in Riga on 27-28 October 2016 accommodated the record number of nearly sixty participants including about twenty speakers. The wide range of sectors and diverse thematic fields represented by the participants – EU and EaP national migration, border guard, consular and security services, European Commission, the EU Joint Research Centre, international organizations, academic institutions, civil society organizations and private sector – once again demonstrated the prominent role that ICT plays in contemporary migration management.
The meeting was co-organized by Latvia and Ukraine with support from the European Commission and the IOM Mission in Ukraine. High-level officials from both countries – Mr. Jānis Citskovskis, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior of Latvia, and Mr. Maksym Sokoliuk, Head of the State Migration Service of Ukraine – as well as the EC representative Mr. Robert Rybicki delivered the opening remarks.
Session I was designed to provide a general overview of why and how ICT is utilized in migration management. Ms. Annalisa Pelizza from the University of Twente presented ICT as a factor which forms and transforms the migration management institutions. From one side, there are policy decisions embedded in the technical implementation of ICT in migration management; while from the other side the ICT systems shape and define policy development. The EC delivered two presentations: one on the EU-level large-scale information systems – Eurodac, SIS II and VIS, and the second on a pilot project in France devoted to enhanced analysis of migration-related data with emphasis on geolocation. ICMPD talked about multiple aspects of the current migration crisis including the challenge of collecting accurate data, while IOM Ukraine outlined the national policies and practices related to ICT use in migration management based on the inputs submitted by the countries prior to the meeting.
Next session was entirely dedicated to the countries’ own information systems and databases serving different purposes: for visa issuance – in Latvia, for issuance of residence cards to foreigners – in Azerbaijan, for border control – in the Czech Republic, for issuance of biometric identification and travel documents – in Ukraine, for verification of authenticity of breeder documents – in the Netherlands. The latter database, called DISCS, initially developed by the Dutch authorities, at present is being maintained through international support and it is also accessible for foreign peer agencies.
During session III, IOM representative provided an overview of the innovative tools capable to improve identity verification, such as IOM’s standalone system VERIFIER TD&B used for detection of fraudulent or altered travel documents and identification of imposters. In this session, the participants also heard about the recent developments in Georgia – the Unified Migration Analytical System (UMAS) – and in Latvia – the Register of Natural Persons.
A speaker from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security shared the national experience of using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is particularly relevant for the EU countries since a similar system that the European Commission is working on. The Commission’s plans regarding the development of such system, called the European Electronic Travel Authorization System (ETIAS), and the Entry-Exit System (EES) were presented to the attendees as well as the functionalities of the new Integrated Return Management Application (IRMA) – a web-platform for integrating all the EU return activities. Mr. Madis Sassiad from the Estonian company “GoSwift” presented a unique queue management service applied at the border crossing points in Estonia that significantly reduces the waiting time.
During a study visit to the Latvian State Border Guard, organized in the framework of the expert meeting, the capabilities of the Latvian Border Control Information System (REIS) were demonstrated in practice to the participants.
Thus, the event revealed how the modern technologies shape migration management and what new possibilities they bring in for enhancing security, increasing efficiency of the migration and border control agencies, benefiting migrants and travelers, tackling irregular migration, planning national migration policies.