The fundamental challenge of border operations is to facilitate the legitimate movement of people while maintaining a border’s integrity, upholding laws and treaties and protecting communities by preventing illegitimate individuals from crossing or abusing visa privileges. This is the mission of the Schengen Exit/Entry System (EES) now in the process of being implemented across external Schengen land, maritime and airport borders. EES establishes a Schengen-wide system that records the biometric and biographic data of non-EU nationals entering and exiting the external borders of member states, registers all cross-border movements and checks visa validity. This system will modernize, strengthen, secure, protect and smarten the Schengen area’s external borders by automating identity verification using biometrics, conduct background checks on a EU-wide Smart Borders framework and verify visa validity to identify irregular migrants, visitors who crossed illegally, or those who overstayed their visa.
The implementation of a Smart Borders framework in the Schengen area is a necessary consequence of the increase and complexity in international border crossings. The immense task border law enforcement and intelligence agencies face are well exemplified by the numbers: In 2018, EU airport arrivals numbered 1.1 billion, with an estimated growth rate of 4 percent per year. The International Organization for Migration estimates that there are currently 258 million migrants, with another 20 to 30 million unauthorized migrants worldwide, and estimates by the UN Refugee Agency of around 68 million forcibly displaced persons around the world.
These numbers bear out the formidable task EU border agencies have in accomplishing their mission and fulfilling their core objectives – facilitating legitimate border crossings while identifying unlawful movements. Currently, most national agencies do not have the technology to share information, provide a full risk profile, and capture biometric data of border crossers in real time. The current procedure, untied from the full spectrum of verified biometric identification and instant background check capability, leaves open the very real possibility for the unlawful entry of dangerous individuals. Compounded with the surge in daily volume at air, land, water points of entry, the adverse effect on the effectiveness and capability of the manual identity verification and clearance process increases with a related effect of elevated risk factors.
This is where Public/Private Partnerships (PPP) can play an important role. Developing a plan jointly between stakeholders provides clear detailed benefits that are easier to approve and implement. A leadership group composed of government representatives and civilian partners committed to the long-term implementation of the EES can better secure the financial resources needed to adapt the EES to each state’s current needs, capability and requirements. A precise PPP plan and project blueprint make clear to the government the benefits of a more secure, predictable and standardized clearance process that reduces compliance costs to the state. A coherent business case maps out the effective relationship between investment and its impact on overall border security, optimization and facilitation including:
• Development of a transformation program.
• Administrative control and capacity.
• Adaptation and alignment of the border clearance model, technical strategies and communication channels.
While implementing the EES, border operations need to continue uninterrupted. To begin the transformation process, each government’s current position is assessed against an implementation plan, with a framework drawn out to incorporate the transition process. This includes a path for each agency to follow when determining its EES requirements, the necessary technology solutions, the impact on border processing, the resulting changes and the roadmap to implementation.
By establishing a clear blueprint of all key EES processes and procedural transformations, the seamless conversion of all border operations is mapped out and tasked to support the its implementation. The blueprint establishes the transformation of person, groups, and processes from individually managed border crossings into an EES inter-agency system. The transformational process includes:
• An implementation blueprint showing key milestones of new services and capabilities going on-line.
• An operational plan defining border processes, organizational roles, and required legislative and policy changes.
• An information and technology framework outlining the inter-agency architecture.
• A communication plan for internal and external stakeholders.
• An implementation and testing plan to adapt technology, communications, and personnel procedures to the testing data and new operating environment.
• A training schedule and support plan.
EES Capability and Capacity
Once fully and properly implemented, EES will establish a system that increases compliance with EU and Schengen border rules and regulations while augmenting the capacity to control borders events. EES shifts what is a series of subjective identity and clearance steps into an automated and indistinguishable transactional process. The EES will operate within an integrated EU-wide Smart Borders framework that includes the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), Schengen Information System (SIS II), Visa Information System (VIS), Biometric Matching System (BMS) and Passenger Name Record system (PNR). As VIS already registers all third-country nationals who require a visa, the EES will augment the SIS database with traveller information from visa-exempt countries and boosted by PNR and ETIAS pre-clearance and pre-check security.
The Smart Borders framework assists border agencies in their overarching responsibility to intercept illegitimate crossing of individuals and deter criminal activities such as human trafficking, migrant smuggling and entry or exit of individuals who may be traveling abroad to join terrorist groups or are returning to the EU with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks. This broader focus on upstream and downstream intelligence sharing and data-driven model analysis enhances security, control and facilitation of border management across the Schengen. Checks on all non-EU nationals against law enforcement and security databases, including those of lost and stolen documents, will be conducted at all external air, land and sea border points. The entire Smart Border integrated capability uses a range of controls that combines all entry and exit data to track, process and identify multi-border movements and access travel history data to identify suspicious movements. The system does this with a range of non-intrusive activities and procedures while always strictly adhering to the laws and regulations controlling access to personal data.
The collected information is limited to the basics required for positive traveler identity verification, document authentication and travel movement record. This includes face and fingerprint biometrics, name, date of birth, nationality, gender, passport information and the place, date and hour of the entry or exit process. Once collected, the information will be stored in a secure and encrypted database for a time period not exceeding three years for individuals who follow Schengen travel rules and five years for those who exceed their visa stay. All information will be collected using Privacy-by-Design principles, meaning that all data collected is limited to what is necessary for the system to function and meet its mission parameter objectives.
Identity Management and Analysis Solutions
EES Interoperability and situational awareness are critical components of the redesigned Smart Border management and collaboration between Schengen states. Improved communication and networking provide the pathways for states to cooperate more fully in a comprehensive biometric identity authentication and border management policy. This builds a trusted partnership between agencies, improves regulatory control, and enhances border services. However, an alignment of suitable solutions for member states poses a critical challenge because of the differences in technological preparedness and advancement among the 26 states that make up the Schengen area.
A solutions portfolio must include a focused structuring of systems and procedures that incorporate scalable and adjustable key elements that improve member state’s borders security and efficiency at various levels of development. The solutions must be modular and agnostically designed so that Smart Border technology and elements enable an effective and facilitated operational control of individual Schengen border crossings. These key solution elements must also manage the regulatory, communication and security protocols that assist in precise identity authentication, conduct of background checks and visa validity verification. The following key solutions are critical in a secure, well-functioning border EES border for the reliable screening of individuals.
Identity Management Platform
The heart of EES at Member state level is founded on a robust and efficient Identity Management Platform (IMP). A robust IMP manages the delicate orchestration balance between facilitating Schengen border crossings and maintaining rigorous control of identity authentication and risk identification processes. The IMP must be capable of handling the secure orchestration and flow of traveller information between the National Uniform Interfaces (NUI) present at every Schengen area country that communicates with the EU-wide Smart Borders framework.
A powerful IMP is grounded in the effectiveness of biometric identity management and improvement of communication and information sharing that facilitates and expedites legitimate border crossings. An IMP’s efficiency is based on an outcome-based process that focuses on increasing identity compliance using risk-driven analysis for more secure border crossings. While the vast bulk of border crossings are legitimate, processing information through a well-designed IMP allows border points to operate with a higher level of confidence in stopping illegitimate crossings.
The well-functioning IMP leverages information streams in real-time, manages in seconds background and identity vetting within a privacy-by-design certified framework and provides tangible benefits including:
• Identity compliance and assurance at the border.
• Optimization of border efficiency and effectiveness.
• Clearance time reduction for all legitimate border crossers.
• Focus on auditing and examination of high-risk individuals.
• Discouragement of illegitimate border crossing attempts using visible policy enforcement and modern technology.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning hold untold potential for the creation of secure biometric authentication mechanisms. Biometric recognition is dramatically increased and more effective with the use of machine learning. They can be combined to develop authentication systems that protect devices against spoofing, cyber-attacks and prevent fraudulent activities. AI and biometrics use the larger amounts of available physiological data to create more precise authentication models and enhance the performance of the modalities across the platform. AI learns from the millions of images stored in the system and utilizes next generation ISO compliant biometrics to successfully authenticate an individual’s face or fingerprint. AI can also use predictive modelling to analyse the effects of aging on the face. By analysing biometric facial information of older and younger individuals, AI can interpret the effects of aging on a person’s face and create more precise identity verification models. By training biometric engines with deep machine-learning techniques, the so-called ethnical bias can be overcome by enhancing the demographics coverage and matching effectiveness to ensure no one is left behind.
Risk Management Software
Proper risk management tools are critical to border security effectiveness and the smooth flow of legitimate individuals through points of entry. Potent risk analysis software identifies, evaluates and prioritizes risk events that may impact border operations and organizational objectives. The continuous monitoring of vertical and horizontal data flow between agencies allows for instant security and intelligence analysis of a traveller’s biometric and biographical background information. This provides a streamlined, intelligence-based decision-making process that shifts the border risk management policy from a weighted approach between control or facilitation towards one of a balanced and optimized security and efficiency management approach.
By providing a centralized risk analysis hub for connected devices, the risk management suite leverages operational data streams to transform the traveller’s information into meaningful intelligence. Instant data analytics of biometric and biographic information on border crossers is used to segment individuals into risk groups for regular or enhanced screening. This intelligence driven risk assessment is used to control the crossing of individuals that pose a threat against national security or public health. To maximize its efficiency and productivity, every agency must operate off the same informational risk assessment of individuals. The coordination between Schengen air, land and water points of entry build the capability and capacity of a well-orchestrated risk analysis that facilitates legitimate throughput and deters illegitimate travel.
By piecing together previously disparate data, powerful risk management tools assess threats throughout the entire orchestrated border crossing points. It deciphers various key information flows to provide clear, concise and precise data analytics that is easily read, understood and consistent across border stakeholders for a fuller and more accurate intelligence picture.
By Paul F. Jacinto, Global Security Expert, Vision-Box