Establishing the multilateral legal framework to enable APEC Member Economies to access each other's data on lost and stolen passport information will be the subject of a workshop in New Zealand, in August.
The workshop is a necessary practical step in the development of multilateral data access arrangements and wider adoption of the Regional Movement Alert List (RMAL) system by APEC economies. The RMAL is a unique system, being developed by Australia and the United States on behalf of the APEC Business Mobility Group, is intended to prevent terrorist and criminal use of lost and stolen passports. The system enables officials at all border checkpoints to identify, in real time, passports that have been reported lost or stolen.
The proposal for the workshop to develop a multilateral APEC framework was endorsed by the APEC Informal Experts' Group on Business Mobility (IEGBM) at its meeting of APEC Senior Officials in Jeju, Korea.
The IEGBM meeting was chaired by Mr Peter Job, from Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA). Mr Job said after the meeting that Member Economies recognize the serious problem of lost or stolen passports being used illegally outside of the issuing territory and beyond the reach of authorities with access to live data.
"You cannot use a lost or stolen passport at border checkpoints in the economy that issued the passport as this would be detected," Mr Job said.
"However, there are inadequate real-time tools to help immigration officials catch people trying to use lost or stolen passports issued by other economies.
"Intentionally trying to pass a lost or stolen passport off as your own is illegal, but it is also a possible indicator of other illegal activities taking place. The RMAL will significantly improve regional capacity to identify and stop both the illegal use of these travel documents and other associated undesirable activities."
Mr Job said an important aspect of developing the RMAL was clarifying precisely what information would be made available, how it could be used, and ensuring that this system is consistent with various domestic regulations including on privacy.
"The only information that will be available on the RMAL will be basic details of passports that have been lost or stolen," Mr Job said.
"When a passport is used at a border post, RMAL enables a check of that passport against a lost and stolen data list. Then if the response from RMAL indicates that the passport is lost or stolen the authorities can take necessary action to deal with the situation."
APEC Leaders gave their support for the RMAL pilot when they met in Santiago last November. A pilot trial of the new system will take place between Australia and the United States in the second half of 2005.
By taking a multilateral approach Member Economies can take advantage of a single collective framework, rather than having to negotiate hundreds of bilateral arrangements to reach the same goal.
The IEGBM, which has been responsible for overseeing the implementation of the RMAL system, works to enhance the mobility of business people by facilitating travel through a range of initiatives such as the APEC Business Travel Card scheme.