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A View to a Border: 4. The use of new technologies and challenges on data protection

Thu, Jun 3, 2021 · 2:00 PM · BST
About This Webinar

The use of new technologies and challenges on data protection in the context of cross border cooperation and information sharing to counter terrorism and related transnational organized crime


The exchange of forensic data is a vital tool for investigations into transnational crimes as well as an important capability in the identification of terrorists and FTFs, including returnees and relocators. In the context of border security and management (BSM), biometric data provides the means for verifying the identity of those who seek to enter, transit or depart international borders including those within irregular migration flows. Biometrics, together with data analytics and digital forensics, is one of the three key areas of innovation necessary to enable international law enforcement to address today’s advanced security landscape. In this regard, a lack of biometric data being collected and shared internationally has the potential to create a critical security gap which may be exploited by terrorist and/or returning and relocating FTFs.

Enhancing the sharing of operational information on known and suspected terrorists and FTFs, including biometric data, among Member States assists in building situational awareness of travel routes and modus operandi so that coordinated measures for prevention and prosecution may be strategically implemented. INTERPOL databases provide key tools for States to verify and share information related to FTFs. However, information exchange and inter-agency cooperation, both within and between countries remains a key challenge. Of concern is that in many remote border control points there is a lack of access to these databases and a lack of interconnectivity nationally, regionally, and internationally. Additionally, many countries are not participating in entering information into INTERPOL’s ‘Foreign Terrorist Fighters Database’, meaning that critical information necessary for identification and interdiction may not be available to the international law enforcement community.

it is important to note that migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are more likely to be the victims of violent extremism than the perpetrators, there is nevertheless the potential for exploitation of large flows of asylum seekers and migrants by foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and their networks. Indeed, as vast volumes of irregular migrants, including those seeking asylum, continue to move across borders, this poses an immense challenge to States’ efforts for border management and identification of potential security threats, including the cross-border of FTFs.

Equally important, however, is that the collection, use, and sharing of operational data, including biometrics as a means of enhancing BSM is done in a responsible manner in line with Member States’ obligations under domestic and international law, in particular obligations under international human rights law, refugee law, and humanitarian law. Respect for human rights and the rule of law is complementary with effective counter-terrorism measures and essential to successful counter-terrorism efforts.

II. Case Study: Western Balkans: INTERPOL Project HOTSPOT

The strategic geographic location of the Western Balkans makes it particularly attractive for trafficking drugs, weapons, and people. The region is situated between the world’s biggest producer of opium, Afghanistan, and the biggest market for heroin, Western Europe. It is becoming an increasingly important entry point for cocaine, as well as a place for laundering the proceeds of crime. The region is also one of the main routes for people moving illegally from the Middle East and North Africa to the EU, either as smuggled migrants or victims of human trafficking.

The refugee crisis of 2015 put the ‘Balkan route’ back at the center of public attention. Political instability in the Middle East and terrorism in Syria and Iraq have a tremendous impact on the flow of retuning FTFs to the West Balkans and the increase of illicit trafficking of SALW and cultural property. As of early 2018, almost one-third of the 1,070 FTFs – around 330 individuals – had returned to their countries of origin, thus making the Western Balkans the region with the highest concentration of returning FTFs in Europe and creating a long-term security challenge compounded by inadequate resources and the threat posed by homegrown terrorist militants.

Most of the criminal groups operating in the region are transnational organized networks controlling the main border areas used for migrant smuggling and all kind of illicit trafficking. These organized criminal groups benefit from and exploit remote and often porous borders, deficiencies in law enforcement capacities, and gaps in inter-agency and cross-border coordination and information sharing.

Project HOTSPOT supports Member States to strengthen their capacities by enhancing cross-border cooperation and operational information sharing through the development and implementation of a sustainable and integrated mechanism for risk assessment. The mechanism relies on the collection of biometric data that will be crosschecked on real time from the frontline against INTERPOL databases, to efficiently prevent, detect, and disrupt the travel of terrorists and their affiliates, including FTFs, who may make use of irregular migration routes and the criminal organizations that facilitate their travel. INTERPOL’s databases of fingerprints and facial images are central to the project.

The case study will address the outcomes of the data collection and screening trial conducted in a pilot operation of project HOTSPOT in Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in September and October 2019. Over a two-day exercise in each country, officers collected fingerprints and facial photos from 480 individuals who were accommodated in the reception centers for irregular aliens after crossing the border outside official border check points and without any identification document. Data comparison and profiles collected from individuals - all over the age of 18 - claiming to come from Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa region revealed one match of an individual who had already been found trying to enter Europe illegally in 2011. Case information was shared with respective countries for appropriate action.

On May 25th, 2021, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), through the BSM Unit, in partnership with the World Border Security Congress (WBSC), will conduct the last of a series of four (4) thematic webinars focused on the critical role that international cross-border cooperation and information sharing play as keystone interlocking elements to prevent and combat terrorism.

This fourth webinar aims to address the use of new technologies and challenges on data protection in the context of cross border cooperation and information sharing to counter terrorism and related transnational organized crime. The first session of the event will be focused on the presentation of a case study on INTERPOL Project HOTSPOT, followed by an interactive dialogue among experts from UNOCT-UNCCT, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and United Kingdom, that will share their insights and first-hand experiences on INTERPOL databases and biometric technology as critical tools to successfully tackle the terror-crime nexus. During the virtual discussion, the audience will have the opportunity to raise questions, provide comments and inputs that will be addressed by the experts.

Who can view: Everyone
Webinar Price: Free
Featured Presenters
Webinar hosting presenter
Editor Border Security Report / World Security Report
Editor of Border Security Report and Director of the World Border Security Congress
Webinar hosting presenter
Associate Programme Officer, Border Security and Management Unit, UNCCT/UNOCT
Webinar hosting presenter
Lt. Colonel / Assistant Director in Terrorist Networks Sub-Directorate, Counter Terrorism Directorate, INTERPOL
Mr. Pelan graduated with honours from the Czech Police Academy and has a Master’s Degree in Social Sciences from Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.
He joined the ranks of the Czech police in 2001 and during his career has worked as an investigator and Police Counsellor at the International Police Cooperation Division of the Czech Police Presidium in Prague. From 2006 till 2016, he spent 10 years at EUROPOL in The Hague, the Netherlands, working within the Serious and Organized Crime Department as well as European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC).
As of October 2016, he holds the post of the Assistant Director in INTERPOL’s Counter Terrorism Directorate and leads the Terrorist Networks Sub-Directorate.
Webinar hosting presenter
Head Border Security and Management Unit, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT)
Rocco Messina is currently heading the Border Security and Management Unit at the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) within the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT). In this tenure, he is managing a multi-year global programme mandated to support the inclusion of the counter-terrorism elements in the UN Member States' border security strategies through technical assistance and capacity-building activities.

Prior to this appointment, from 2011 to 2017, Mr. Messina served as Head of the Border Management Section at the United Nations Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) implementing a capacity-building portfolio to design a comprehensive on Haitian national border national policy. His leadership and matter expertise were instrumental to the creation of the Haitian Technical Border Commission, the Customs Police, as well as a specialized branch of the Haitian National Police in charge of securing the land borders. Mr. Messina started his professional career in 1990 after a two-year military police academy training with the Counter-terrorism branch of the Italian Guardia di Finanza (Italian Military Police).

During his 25-year long career, he was deployed to several field missions, at both national and international levels, focusing mainly on counter-terrorism and border security matters. He was bestowed with several national and international medals and awards for the successful completion of his high-risk duties. Between September 2006 and May 2007, Mr. Messina was deployed in Herat Afghanistan with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Mission as Training Programme Officer, where he developed a training programme for the Afghan Border Police.

Mr.Messina holds a master’s degree in literature and a degree in international law and he speaks fluently English, Spanish and French.
Webinar hosting presenter
Senior Expert, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism - United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNOCT-UNCCT)
Esther Zubiri joined the State Attorney-General’s Office of Spain in 1998, where she has developed her professional career over twenty-two years as a State Attorney specialized in counter terrorism. She currently works as a senior expert in the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) within the United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT). Formerly, she served as the Chief of Rule of Law and Human Rights at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Afghanistan. In 2012, she was appointed as the Agent of the Kingdom of Spain to the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe, representing Spain at the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER). From 2014 to 2019, she worked as a Senior Legal Specialist at Inter-American Committee against Terrorism of the Organization of American States. As State Attorney Chief, she worked at the National Court, the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country, the Central Economic-Administrative Court, the State Tax Administration Agency, and the Ministries of Justice and Interior, where she led the prosecution on several high-profile terrorist cases. She served as a counselor at the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations and the Embassy of Spain in the United States of America. She holds a JD and a Master’s Degree in Law from the Comillas Pontifical University of Madrid (ICADE). She has been awarded with the Merit Cross of the Spanish National Police and the Silver Cross of the Spanish Civil Guard.
Webinar hosting presenter
Criminal Intelligence Officer, INTERPOL CT-TN, Terrorist Mobility Unit
- Intelligence Police Officer, INTERPOL, CT/TN, Terrorist Mobility Unit
- Police officer more than 21 years
- Working at the Police of the Czech republic at - Criminal Police and Investigation Service, since 2008 detective at National Anti-organized Crime Squad, Counterterrorism Department/Illicit trafficking of firearms, military and CBRN material
- Investigator - UNMIK - UN Peacekeeping Mission to Kosovo, Specialized Investigation Unit (2006/2007)
- Crime Advisor - European Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2010/2011
Webinar hosting presenter
Coordinator, INTERPOL CT-TN, Terrorist Mobility Unit
Dritan Shema is a police officer seconded to INTERPOL from Albania. He worked in several units of National Police, like counter drugs and counter organized crime investigation, cross-border crime investigation, Head of Police Station and since 2017 is working in INTERPOL, initially in People Smuggling Networks and then in CT/Terrorist Networks (CT-TN). Currently he holds the position of Coordinator Terrorist Mobility Unit within CT-TN.
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