24 frontline officials attended capacity enhancing training to countering passport and identity fraud

Mr. Pol.Col Saysaming Sivilay (left) delivering opening remarks next to Ms. Shareen Tuladhar (right)

Participants brainstorming for solutions to given topics as part of group activity

Immigration Officer holding a sample of counterfeit passport

Participants during the introductory sessions

Between 24 to 26 November 2021, 24 frontline officials attended capacity enhancing training on countering passport and identity frauds hosted by The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Lao PDR with technical assistance provided by IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Immigration Compliance and Enforcement Team in Thailand, and Thai immigration Bureau. The participants are Lao frontline officials from the Department of Immigration, the Department of Customs, and the Department of Civil Aviation who play an integral role in border management in Lao PDR. The training is relevant and contributing to tangible inter-agency operation to combat transnational organized crime in Lao PDR.

Migrant Smuggling and trafficking in persons continue to undermine human rights across Asia and, particularly in Southeast Asia.  As a land-locked country and sharing borders with five neighboring countries, Lao PDR is particularly susceptible to both migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons as a source, receiving and transit country.

The use of fraudulent travel or identity documents is one of the modus operandi which frequently facilitates the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons in Lao PDR. The perpetrators produce, procure, or provide fraudulent travel or identity documents to smuggled migrants in order that they be used to apply for passports, visas, or be presented at border controls. 

Training touched on enhancing the capacity of 24 officials by equipping them with the necessary knowledge to apply with their work on travel document and identity verification, to detect and intercept cases of migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons. The training contents include, but not limited to basic knowledge on transnational organized crime, migrant smuggling, and trafficking in persons, with an emphasis on document examination procedures. The training also enhanced the officials’ skills on passenger risk assessment and migrant interviewing, to identify smuggled migrants and/or potential victims of trafficking, before referring them for further investigation or assistance process, as deemed appropriate.  

Mr. Pol. Col Saysaming Sivilay, Director General of the Department of Immigration, delivered opening remarks expressing his gratitude towards the support from IOM in providing capacity training to the Department of Immigration in countering irregular migration, detecting counterfeit and fraudulent travel documents, using facial recognition to identify imposters and more.  

Ms. Shareen Tuladhar, Chief of Mission, IOM Lao PDR congratulated the government of Lao PDR on the effective response to COVID-19 pandemic by keeping the borders open for migrant workers to return home in these last two years. “The recent effort by the government to develop the COVID-19 recovery plan and many policy processes that are currently underway such as the opening of the Lao-China railway on the National Day, Dec 2, and efforts for Laos to move towards development of the country are indication of the commitment,” she stressed.

Mr. Pol. Lt. Col Phayvanh Xayavong, Director of Domestic and International Cooperation Division, Department of Immigration addressed the necessity of the training “It was the first training on Enhancing Lao PDR Immigration Official Capacity in Countering Passport and Identity Fraud
in this year. Junior immigration officers and frontline officers can apply inspecting techniques at points of entry after the training.”

Mr. Pol. Lt. Col Sengmany Xaybounteun, Head of Immigration and Inspection Unit, Point of Entry Management Division, Department of Immigration cited the practical exercises to be helpful resources for better understanding counterfeit travel document inspection “Both theory and practical parts of the sessions such as: Imposter, Detection on Counterfeit Passport, and key areas of the passport inspection are needed and helpful to immigration and other related sector.” 

Mr. Amonesin Nakhammoun Custom Officer at Wattay International Airport, Department of Customs was glad to be part of the training. He stated, “even though customs unit does not check the passport, we can help immigration unit by checking the imposter and the fraudulent of goods and documents at both import and export areas.”

Mr. Somphonh Xayavong, Head of Civil Aviation Security Division, Department of Civil Aviation found the training syllabus and case study crucial to PoE management. “It is good that all related sectors can learn from the key documents on the point of entry management such as Prime Ministry 558 on Border Checkpoint and International Airport and case studies at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand,” he said.

Besides the capacity enhancing training, the Department of Immigration is currently partnering with IOM under the regional project Mekong Region: Responding to Cross Border Mobility Challenges at Points of Entry (PoE) during the COVID-19 Outbreak, where IOM provided the Immigration officials with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and trainings on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for effective management of operation at borders in response to the COVID-19.  

Under its Immigration and Border Management framework, IOM supports the Department of Immigration under the Ministry of Public Security, and its regional and local counterparts to tackle irregular migration, human smuggling and trafficking by enhancing the capacity of border officials to detect and prevent smuggling of migrants and human trafficking, as well as vulnerable migrants at risk.