22 - 23 March 2017
IOM hosted a border management conference in Tbilisi from 22-23 March to mark the drawing to an end of the 2013-2017 EU-funded More for More project. The project has served to assist the Government of Georgia in meeting its Visa Liberalization Action Plan targets and the conference took place less than a week before Georgian citizens begin to enjoy visa free travel to the Schengen area. The conference included opening speeches from the Director of the Patrol Police, the Deputy Head of the Border Police and the Head of Customs and attracted significant media coverage. Invited guest speakers travelled from Austria, the Netherlands, Latvia, Moldova, Turkey and the U.K. There were also representatives present from embassies in Georgia and the region. Government of Georgia representatives came from a wide range of project partners including the State Security and Crisis Management Council and the State Commission on Migration Issues. It was an opportunity to both reflect on the concluding project but also to look forward to the new EU-funded border and migration management project scheduled to begin in the summer.
One topical new area of engagement in Georgia is developing the use of Advanced Passenger Information and the analysis of Passenger Name Records and there were active discussions around this topic with the guest speaker from the U.K.’s National Border Targeting Centre in Manchester. Additional subjects discussed included the challenges posed by Foreign Terrorist Fighters at borders, smuggling and trafficking of persons in busy airports and the ongoing reforms taking place in the Georgian Border Police. As a finale to the proceedings the foreign guests were taken to the Sadakhlo border checkpoint with Armenia to see the work of the Revenue Service and the Patrol Police at first hand.
Invited guests witness border operations at the Sadakhlo checkpoint
Mark Richmond, IOM’s Border Management Specialist based in Tbilisi, commented that “…the conference’s timing to coincide with visa free travel to Schengen becoming a reality was ideal and it provided the opportunity for all concerned to reflect on the project’s achievements and also to look ahead to project plans and opportunities for the coming years.”