Asia-Pacific Document Examination Experts, Immigration Authorities Reaffirm Commitment to Address Irregular Migration and Transnational Organized Crime as Borders Reopen

Bangkok—As more Asia-Pacific countries ease travel restrictions and reopen borders, the region’s document examination experts and immigration authorities meeting in Bangkok this week (7-9 June) affirmed their commitment to enhance regional cooperation and combat transnational organized crime networks, which utilize fraudulent travel documents and operate and facilitate irregular migration.

The 7th Asian Network for Document Examination (ANDEX) meeting, also saw the Thai Immigration Bureau (TIB), take over as Chair of ANDEX from Maldives Immigration. ANDEX was formally established in 2013, under the auspices of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Document Examination Support Centre (DESC), with the financial support of the Government of Canada. It is a regional platform for immigration and law enforcement officials to support Member States (currently 14) in formulating a transnational response to travel document fraud and to share best practices in addressing irregular migration and transnational crimes.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Nenette Motus, IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, said, “Information sharing and cooperation remain at the forefront of the work that we do, especially in the current period when organized crime groups take advantage of the increased challenges to daily border operations, brought on by the pandemic.”

Dr. Motus added that IOM remained committed to supporting ANDEX and the participating countries in all its efforts to strengthen regional travel document examination capacity to combat irregular migration and transnational crime through regular exchange of information on document and immigration fraud.

“Migrant smuggling networks and transnational crime groups undermine the integrity of borders and the social systems of countries in which they operate so they need to be tackled through collaboration and coordination across countries, through initiatives like ANDEX,” said Dr. Sarah Taylor, Ambassador of Canada to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand. “The goal is maximizing positive flows of people and goods across borders through sharing of information, integration of border management systems while at the same time putting in place effective measures to counter illicit flows, particularly human trafficking,” Ambassador Taylor added.

“As Chair, I strongly encourage more countries to be involved, in order to add value within this community, build trust and share information on irregular migration. With the reopening of borders, the sharing of timely information is imperative to ensure that victims of trafficking or smuggled migrants don’t go unnoticed,” said the incoming ANDEX Chair, Pol.Col. Apimook Karntayakorn, Deputy Commander, Investigation Division, Thai Immigration Bureau.

The meeting was also briefed about the forthcoming research report on the Use of Fraudulent Medical Documents in Travel and Migration During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which highlighted amongst other findings, the reasons behind the use of fraudulent medical documents were due to avoidance of administrative burdens, complex process of getting vaccine cards and high-costs associated with vaccinations. These illicit practices were also facilitated by agents and organized crime groups via dark webs and social media platforms.

Key discussions also included ways in which immigration authority document examiners could further utilize the Verifier Travel Document and Bearer (Verifier TD&B), a secondary travel document inspection tool that assists immigration and border control officers in the detection of fraudulent documents and imposters.

Participants also discussed other technological and system options such as using artificial intelligence (AI) in addressing irregular migration and transnational crime experienced in their national contexts.

“If visa seals, entry exit seals, visa stickers, passport specimens are shared by all the ANDEX Member States, through DESC, then border control officials will be more equipped with real time genuine information, where DESC could create a digital database for Member States, making our borders more protected,” affirmed the outgoing Chair of ANDEX, Ibrahim Ashraf, Deputy Controller, Maldives Immigration.

 

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