Between 24 and 27 June 2013, New Zealand and Australia Co-Chaired the fifth Technical Experts Working Group meeting on Immigration Information and Intelligence Sharing Mechanisms – Strategies in Action held in Auckland, New Zealand.
In attendance were representatives from Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United States of America, Viet Nam and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Representatives from Canada and the Bali Process Regional Support Office (RSO) also attended.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the challenges that exist to sharing immigration-related information and intelligence with other Bali Process members and the wider international community. Participants explored practical ways to overcome those challenges in developing sharing mechanisms including Memoranda of Understanding (MOU)/Arrangements and releasing information multilaterally via the Bali Process secure web portal.
The New Zealand Co-Chair shared an overview of the different types of information sharing mechanisms utilised by New Zealand to cooperate internally as well as with other countries. He emphasised the importance of having supporting legal frameworks and standardised templates. Both Co-Chairs highlighted that success in sharing information and intelligence relies on trust and the willingness of participant agencies and parties to work together to achieve common outcomes.
Countries presented on:
- the effectiveness of immigration information and intelligence sharing mechanisms available to Bali Process members;
- issues to consider before using sharing mechanisms and any strategies adopted to mitigate potential risks; and
- lessons learnt from experiences with information sharing mechanisms.
Two case studies were presented by New Zealand and Australia on The Pacific Immigration Directors’ Conference (PIDC) and the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, respectively. New Zealand discussed benefits of PIDC and challenges faced by Pacific agencies and the importance of strong institutional support provided by the PIDC Secretariat which ensures a consistent and coordinated approach in the sharing of immigration-related information and intelligence. Australia discussed the benefits of UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (UNSCR1373) as a mechanism to facilitate sharing of immigration and other related information. UNSCR1373 noted the crucial role played by travel documentation in regard to terrorist-related movements.
The structure, role, engagement mechanisms with Bali Process members and ongoing projects of the Bali Process Regional Support Office (RSO) were discussed by Ms Sophie Nonnenmacher.
The progress made, type of information, services available and a demonstration of the operation of the Bali Process Secure Web Portal were presented by Mr Sjef Broekhaar, Head Immigration and Border Management Unit, Regional Office Bangkok IOM.
In break-out groups, participants discussed the following questions:
- What issues should you consider before sharing immigration information and intelligence multilaterally?
- What sort of authority is needed to share immigration information and intelligence multilaterally?
Members agreed on the following items:
- The valuable roles played by liaison officers, embassies, legislative frameworks, and Interpol in facilitating information exchange.
- The usefulness of domestic and international forums and practicality of developing information sharing instruments.
- The importance of the Bali Process Secure Web Portal and the UNODC VRS-MSRC database with the necessity for all members to assist in populating these sites and providing regular input.
- The need for a meeting of relevant stakeholders to explore in detail the development of a framework or guidelines to be put forward for consideration at the next Bali Process Senior Officials Meeting to facilitate immigration-related information and intelligence sharing across both multilateral and bilateral environments.
- Members were encouraged to share MOU templates on the Bali Process Secure Web Portal as examples of the different styles and types of MOU frameworks to be used for sharing immigration-related information and intelligence. Further, members were encouraged to take initiative to develop MOUs and other bilateral information sharing agreements.