refugeeAn interview with Gérard Martinez, Gemalto

Silicon Trust met up with Gemalto’s Gérard Martinez, Head of Border and Visa Management Solutions, to talk about some of the latest trends in border and visa management and the impact upon people migration and visa control.

With the recent refugee-based news in mind, are you seeing changes in governments’ priorities in Border Management?

The surge of desperate refugees from the Middle East and Africa has indeed put unprecedented pressure on EU countries, especially Italy, Greece and Hungary. The first priority is to provide humanitarian assistance to these refugees. This means food, first aid and shelter but also coordination and reporting.

But I would say that surprisingly there are no changes in the core priorities of governments overall. On the contrary, the main challenges at the borders remain the same: ensuring open, secured and controlled borders with three major pieces of personal information: What is the traveler’s identity? What is his/her national origin? Which countries have been visited and what are the reasons for traveling?

Border management is under the spotlight today but it has always been linked to human development, human rights, human mobility and security. That’s why it can be such an emotional issue.

Is this making the fight against terrorism and human trafficking a lower priority?

Certainly not! The very process of facilitating travel, economic exchanges and migration can indeed be exploited for human trafficking and terrorism. That’s why many authorities around the world have designated the fight against terrorism and trafficking as priority crime areas. They have committed significant resources to protect their citizens from all types of terrorism and to identify and dismantle the criminal networks making millions through people smuggling.

Police forces don’t have unlimited resources, how can this point be addressed?

That’s where IT systems, the redesigning of processes, the implementation of new Border and Visa systems and of course the related training are key.

Authorities are fully aware of the need to turn to technology in order to help shape their response to the challenges of processing – in a humane and orderly way – ever growing numbers of genuine travelers into and out of their territory. I started my career in system integration. Last April marked my second anniversary as head of the Border and Visa Management business unit. Over these past two years, I have traveled around the world, discovering how our authorities are adapting to these challenges. What I also see today is that police forces are relying more on external resources. In fact, when I look at the recent changes, I see two major trends:

More and more players are now engaged in identity checks. For example, airline companies – even the low cost ones – are required by law in some countries to check identity documents. They typically have to compare the passenger, and in particular their entire face, with their identification and to compare the name on the passenger’s boarding pass with said identification. In addition, air carriers have the responsibility to decide what to do when the passenger presents a piece of photo identification that does not resemble the photograph or when the passenger does not appear to be the age indicated by the date of birth on the identification presented or perhaps when the passenger does not seem to be of the gender indicated on the identification presented.

This “liability shift”, with a growing number of players in the security chain, demands coordinated processes, integrated information on technology systems, knowledge transfer and joint responsibilities with the various stakeholders.

The second trend, which is probably more visible, is self-service technology such as ABC (Automatic Border Control) gates or APC (Automated Passport Control) kiosks. They are designed to speed up processing at the immigration primary line and thus alleviate capacity issues. As a manufacture of ABC and APCs at Gemalto, we’ve received an exceptional response from travelers, the airports, and the authorities involved in the process. The new technology has been quickly adopted by travelers and has also been positively impacting the officers who can now focus on exceptions.

In short, could you please introduce the specific position of Gemalto in the Border and Visa market?

We’ve worked to develop a state-of-the-art software platform for border and visa management. Gemalto’s expertise is to provide, for each and every traveler, full reconciliation of data for entries, exists and visa authorization. Coesys Border & Visa Management provides a secure and efficient way to manage the flow of travelers across a nation’s border by applying a systematic, consistent and reliable control. With this integrated software and services solution, governments can implement their immigration policies and meet the combined challenges of securing borders and simplifying travel procedures.

Information security is built-in at all levels of our border management system. A solution designed to ensure the protection and privacy of all sensitive information during data acquisition, data handling, data communication, data storage and deletion.

Gemalto’s Coesys Border & Visa offers a unique integrated border management tool for government initiatives. Combined with Gemalto’s professional services, the solution easily integrates with legacy systems while providing a hardware-agnostic approach for data security & privacy protection.

What are your customers achieving with you then?

Gemalto’s role is to assist authorities in meeting their operational challenges of border and visa management and with Coesys Border & Visa Management, our customers have been able to build a unified and secure border management system public services and administrations can count on at all times. We can help lay the foundation for an integrated system to merge and streamline layers of disparate processes into a whole cohesive and secure system. This, in turn, is the basis to implement a future-proof, mission critical system, flexible and scalable enough to keep up with the demands of changing immigration policy and technological standards. One really important aspect is that Gemalto provides an uninterrupted operation, with online and offline capabilities. Also, last but not least, it saves costs by automating & optimizing processes, while leveraging technologies for added security and better passenger facilitation.

What are your customers appreciating most?

Well, we made sure that the Coesys Border & Visa Management offer puts the CIO or National Immigration Project Manager in control of a secure and adaptable Integrated Border Management System.

What they appreciate the most is that they are implementing a solution that has already been tested and deployed at international level by other dedicated government security experts.

In these environments, Gemalto is the perfect match as prime contract. We deliver a unique combination of local resources through local partners and international expertise with our own Border & Visa competency center.

The feedback we got also is that our customers like solutions that are built to be hardware-agnostic, ensuring independence from past or future suppliers. Gemalto’s solution protects our customers from ‘vendor-lock’ in the fields of biometrics and travel document scanners.

They also value our expertise. Unlike a generalist system integrator, Coesys Border Management provides a full range of applications to implement best-practice immigration processes and state-of-the-art technologies at border management headquarters (HQ) and border control points (BCPs).

In addition, our background is not from networking equipment in airport or working for airlines – but true experience in project management, side-by-side with government authorities and an unparalleled knowledge of secure documents and related processes (enrolment, control/verification).

Would you have a recent example to illustrate this?

As of July 2015, travelers to the Central African nation of Gabon can now apply for visas online. This latest innovation named “e-Visa” forms part of the country’s e-government projects, which are aimed at making public services more accessible. The e-Visa project enables visitors to use the Internet to apply for a visa to enter Gabon. Regular travelers to Gabon have welcomed the government’s decision to allow foreigners to apply for visas online, moving away from visa procedures sometimes viewed as complicated. Once the request for an e-Visa is done on the web, it is processed by la Direction Générale de la Documentation et de l’Immigration (DGDI). The visa is issued at Libreville International Airport.

Visa management is now an essential component of a modern, integrated border management system. It is key to enhancing both security and convenience. Gabon authorities’ main objectives are to introduce ICT tools to transform and simplify administrative procedures, for both the visa applicant and the issuing authority. The goal is also to enhance border security through the establishment of a trusted identity — based on document verification, and crosschecks of national and international control lists — during the visa application process. The new system will also facilitate arrival processes, minimize airport congestion and curb visa over-stays. In the long term, Gabon seeks to boost tourism and business, and this investment in the right technology will help make this happen.

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