The International Organization for Migration's (IOM) Immigration and Border Management programmes will continue to assist the Government in achieving the twin objectives of maintaining national security and fostering economic development, at a time when the country is experiencing an increased cross border movement of people and goods as a result of rapidly rising trade and tourism, a revitalized economy, and increased economic and cultural ties with other countries. IOM will provide support to the newly established National Border Management Committee (NBMC) and its Member Agencies in the core areas of integrated border management, improvements to border management information systems and travel document issuance systems, identity management, data management, migration intelligence and risk analysis, and training and capacity building for border and migration officials.

Promoting Integrated Approaches to Border Management

Integrated border management is a concept that involves enhanced coordination and cooperation between border agencies and can happen at any or all of the following levels: 1) within a border agency where various sections have specific functions; 2) between agencies that have a role in border management, and; 3) internationally through partnerships with border agencies in other States. With the rising numbers of goods and people crossing borders in a globalized era, many countries around the world have moved to an integrated border management approach.

In line with Sri Lanka’s Integrated Border Management Strategy 2018-2021, which sets out directions for enhancing border management within a multi-agency integrated environment, IOM will work closely with all relevant Agencies in the operationalization of the strategy, based on various pathways for integration, including: a) formation of a new Border Operations Committee to oversee the operational level of border management and report to the Cabinet appointed NBMC; b) establishment of a multi-agency Border Risk Assessment Centre to assess risks to the border and provide coordinated incident response; c) a shared IT system between border agencies that allows greater data accessibility and risk detection; d) a procedural framework that aligns border processes and procedures to ensure operational consistency and best practices; e) coordinated border training, communications, change management, and monitoring and reporting, and; f) partial integration of administrative functions, such as funding, and alignment of policies, processes and procedures.

Enhanced Identity Management and Travel Documents Issuance System

Effective identity management and access to identity information in a timely and credible manner is of crucial importance for better decision making in migration management. In recent times, the integrity of the Sri Lankan passport has been substantially improved as the result of IOM’s support to the Department of Immigration and Emigration (DIE) in the introduction of biometrics features and ICAO-compliant photographs in the passport application lodgement and assessment process, thereby strengthening Sri Lanka’s capacity to detect fraudulent claims of identity and enhance the integrity of the overall process. IOM will continue to support the enhancement of the Sri Lankan identity management framework by improving the functionality of the existing biometrics system through info-border system modifications that would link DIE, primary immigration counters and overseas missions and by building the capabilities of DIE and overseas mission staff to work with the biometrics system.

IOM will also support DIE through the effective utilization of equipment for secondary document examination and related technical training for timely impostor recognition at the Colombo international airport.

IOM will continue to support the Sri Lankan DIE in managing an Integrated Enquiry Management System (IEMS) which was first established with IOM’s technical assistance a decade ago. The IEMS facilitates the verification of migration operational data related to border controls, and passport issuance information between the DIE and multiple national and foreign agencies for better decision making. Over the years, through a multi-phased approach, IOM has contributed to optimizing the potential of IEMS by making it an online platform and by creating links with multiple databases, namely the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database and the National Identity Cards issuance system, to gather, share and cross-check information.

The Readmission Case Management System (RCMS) was established at the DIE through technical support from IOM with the objective of facilitating the smooth readmission of persons to Sri Lanka in the context of the existing Readmission Agreement between the EU and Sri Lanka. The online RCMS in Sri Lanka enables the issuance of temporary travel documents (TTDs), containing security features, to undocumented persons whose return to Sri Lanka is requested by host country authorities. It also assists Sri Lankan authorities involved in readmission, such as Sri Lanka Diplomatic Missions, immigration and police at the airport, and other law enforcement agencies in processing readmission applications and clearance at the port of entry. Set up initially by IOM in 2012, the RCMS will be assessed and improved to better meet newly emerging needs and requirements along with IOM’s policy and operational support extended to the National Coordinating Committee on Readmission set up within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Combating People Smuggling and Other Trans-Border Crime

Borders are the first line of defence of a country and carry various political and social functions, the most important of which are sovereignty, protection and the formation of legal, economic, and social identities. In a globalized economy, borders can appear to lose some of their functions, but the security implications of migration, including trans-border crime such as people smuggling, human trafficking and international terrorism, are yet to be fully addressed. A recent IOM’s border vulnerability assessment at the Bandaranaike International Airport, and the resulting report submitted to the Government, showed that Sri Lanka is no exception to these trends.  Securing the country’s borders is a key policy priority for the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that it has the capacity to identify high risk travellers before their arrival. IOM will contribute to this achievement through providing support to improved intelligence gathering, data analysis, travel history analysis, and passenger profiling activities, in cooperation with international enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL and foreign immigration services.

Strengthened legislative frameworks are key enablers for immigration and law enforcement authorities to effectively combat human smuggling. Building upon IOM’s support in the review of primary and secondary Sri Lankan migration legislation and the production of a resulting gap analysis report, IOM will continue to extend its technical assistance to the Government to inform the redrafting of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act, with a view to strengthening the existing legislative framework and to empower Sri Lanka immigration and law enforcement authorities to take action against transnational organized crime, with a particular focus on migrant smuggling.

As elsewhere, the absence or lack of coordinated migration intelligence hinders opportunities for disrupting people smuggling, human trafficking and other cross border crimes, thus impeding changes in policies and legislation. Recently IOM produced a system design report to facilitate evidence-based decision making by the DIE and the Ministry of Law and Order on the establishment of a migration functional analysis unit to more effectively combat national and transnational border security threats. IOM will continue to support the effective application of procedures and processes recommended by the system design report to support national immigration and law enforcement authorities to gather migration intelligence and improve coordination capacity among relevant agencies, particularly in the context of the new Sri Lanka integrated border management strategy.

Furthermore, IOM will provide technical assistance to the Consular Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the introduction, on a pilot basis, of a remote document legalization system as a means to promote the prevention of document forgery, which is a widespread and systematic matter of concern for local authorities.