You are reading: RSO 2023 Border Forum promotes cross-border efforts through enhanced information sharing RSO 2023 Border Forum promotes cross-border efforts through enhanced information sharing
15 December 2023 | Event
RSO 2023 Border Forum promotes cross-border efforts through enhanced information sharing

Responding to large-scale irregular migration and countering migration-related offenses—including people smuggling, and trafficking in persons—requires collaborative efforts and effective cross-border partnerships and information sharing.

The RSO 2023 Border Forum gathered senior government and frontline officers across the Bali Process membership, International Organisations and regional partners around the theme of multilateral information sharing—to engage in dialogue around insights and best practices that can encourage strengthening of connections and information sharing across borders.

“In our interconnected world, intelligence-sharing mechanisms are indispensable, particularly in countering human trafficking and people smuggling,” said His Excellency Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Former Foreign Minister of Malaysia, in his keynote speech. He also underlined that, “by fostering a collaborative environment, nations can learn from each other to protect the rights of vulnerable people—including children, asylum seekers, and refugees…to construct a more just, secure, and compassionate world,” setting the scene for the two-day forum.

Held over 6-7 December, the Border Forum brought together almost 100 government officials representing law enforcement, border and immigration, maritime agencies, policy makers, judicial officials, and counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling practitioners.

Participants represented 28 Bali Process Member and Observer States, 4 Member and Observer Organisations and 17 regional partners, with the aim of fostering cross-border dialogue and effective coordination around these multifaceted issues.

Building on themes identified in last year’s Border Forum and at the 2023 Bali Process Ministerial Conference, key themes that emerged at the 2023 Border Forum included:

  • Finding practical and innovative ways to collaborate and share information across borders
  • Finding ways to make use of technology to combat emerging cybercrimes, and drafting legislation to empower this
  • Ensuring capacity building has a long-term vision and person-to-person bonds that create a foundation for collaborating and sharing information and best practices across borders
  • Sharing updated trends and analyses that highlight smuggling and trafficking routes and modus operandi

Attendees engaged in bilateral and multilateral dialogue, with both formal and informal opportunities for joint coordination. Small group sessions and virtual and in-person mapping exercises supported discussions and provided a collaborative space to share information and nurture cross-border relationships.

Day 1: Trends, opportunities and challenges around cross-border collaboration

Displaced and vulnerable populations in the region continue to rise—as natural and humanitarian pressures, conflict and economic hardships force or compel people to move in search of a better life. Key regional challenges highlighted included the large-scale movement of Rohingya by both sea and land, and the return of Afghans following a change in policy in Pakistan around undocumented foreigners. Such movements place individuals at risk of falling prey to traffickers or unscrupulous people smugglers and places significant pressures on governments and host countries and communities.

In recognition of the importance of partnerships and working through a whole-of-society approach, the RSO convened experts from the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mixed Migration Centre (MMC), and Pacific Immigration Development Community (PIDC), to speak to these challenges and trends. They each provided useful insights and analysis of regional challenges, and emerging trends and routes across West Asia, South and South East Asia, and the Pacific.

A presentation from the Pacific Island Development Community and the Pacific Island States of Tonga, Samoa, and Solomon Islands showcased regional efforts to enable more effective information sharing across the Pacific Islands, including through the development of Memorandums of Understanding.

Esteban De La Torre, Regional Coordinator for Border Management at the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, emphasised the pivotal role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Border Management Cooperation Roadmap. Focusing on key principles like information sharing, collaboration, and capacity building, the roadmap serves as a strategic framework to improve cross-border crime prevention.

Ha Duc Quang, Criminal Intelligence Officer, INTERPOL presented the STORMMAKERS II operation in Southeast Asia which targeted human trafficking-fueled fraud and resulted in 281 arrests and 149 victims rescued. The RSO was pleased to support the participation of Bali Process Member States in this operation. This was followed by a presentation by Alexandru Chiric and Greg Clifford from CRIMARIO II—which spotlighted multilateral maritime information-sharing and explored innovative strategies for fostering collaboration in maritime security.

In afternoon workshops, Matthew Valentine from The Scientia Program shared his insights on effective national to local-level information sharing and Jason Tower from the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) delved into a nuanced exploration of the interplay between local and regional security challenges.

Day 2: Innovation and technology: border management and transnational crime

Opening day 2, Pol. Maj. Gen. Choochat Thareechat, Deputy Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, Royal Thai Police reflected, “Technology and information sharing is critical to counter cybercrime and related transnational crime in the Bali Process region.” Building on this, expert sessions on the second day of the forum provided valuable insights into innovation in cross-border management and future information-sharing trends.

A mapping exercise brought delegates together in small groups to map emerging trends in people smuggling routes, and possible opportunities for intervention to counter the intricate business models of people smugglers.

Workshops explored the future of information sharing across borders, and included presentations from Jessica Dewangga, from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Immigration and Border Governance Team who presented on regional trends in use of fraudulent travel documents. Paul Cross, from the Biometrics Institute delved into developments in biometric technology and the impacts that they will have on border management, and Eric Drury, Founder, Forthco highlighted emerging technologies powering national digital ID programs and their potential for use in border management.

A panel discussion—led by Michael Cymbalista, Counsellor (Mekong Region) of the Australian Border Force, Ben Quinn, Irregular Migration Liaison Officer, New Zealand Police, and Thidet Satjanurakwong, Deputy Superintendent of Investigation Division, Thai Immigration Bureau—provided insights on capacity building and information sharing through the lens of what opportunities exist to leverage multi-country capacity building activities, as well as strengthened cross-border information exchange.

The RILON Initiative and RSO Alumni Network

The RSO introduced the proposed refresh of the Regional Information, Liaison, and Outreach Network (RILON) Initiative—which aims to provide a platform to support ongoing knowledge and information sharing around key regional challenges. The RILON Initiative aims to enhance how those working in Bali Process Member States from law enforcement, border and immigration agencies, maritime agencies and other relevant departments share information with one another around key priority issues.

Exemplifying how the RILON Network could support regional efforts, presentations from Anchana Chailert and Napol Woraprateep, Special Case Officers in the Department of Special Investigations, Kingdom of Thailand, and Atty. Lara Sanchez from the Department of Justice in the Philippines, showcased examples of information sharing with international counterparts to counter childhood sexual exploitation.

Attendees also heard from the newly launched RSO Alumni Network—which aims to support continued engagement and community connections across practitioners dedicated to countering trafficking in persons, people smuggling, and related transnational crime. Representing the first cohort of RSO Alumni, Capt. Vithanage Lasantha, Northern Naval Command of the Sri Lanka Navy, and Ms. Yaneke Anissa Fyrgie and Mr Jumari from the Law and Human Rights Ministry of Indonesia, presented on their efforts to apply and embed learned practices back into their workplaces.

Looking Ahead

At the RSO, we remain available and responsive to engage across the Bali Process membership. We will be sharing an Outcome Statement and Outline of Collective Efforts in the coming weeks, to guide our work over the next period and contributing to the joint objectives set out in the 2023 Adelaide Strategy for Cooperation.

Thank you again to everyone who attended—we look forward to moving forward together.