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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Index, and National File Tracking System of Records, implemented new or modified uses of information maintained on individuals as they pass through the immigration process. The new requirements became effective as of 18 October 2017.

The new regulation updates the categories of individuals covered, to include: individuals acting as legal guardians or designated representatives in immigration proceedings involving an individual who is physically or developmentally disabled or severely mentally impaired (when authorized); Civil Surgeons who conduct and certify medical examinations for immigration benefits; law enforcement officers who certify a benefit requestor’s cooperation in the investigation or prosecution of a criminal activity; a­nd interpreters.

It also expands the categories of records to include: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results; and EOIR and BIA proceedings information.
The new regulation also includes updated record source categories to include: publicly available information obtained from the internet; public records; public institutions; interviewees; commercial data providers; and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements.

With this latest expansion of data allowed to be collected, it begs the question: How does one protect sensitive data housed on electronic devices? In addition to inspecting all persons, baggage, and merchandise at a port-of-entry, CBP does indeed have the authority to search electronic devices too. CBP’s stance is that consent is not required for such a search. This position is supported by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has determined that such border searches constitute reasonable searches; and therefore, do not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment.

Despite this broad license afforded CBP at the port-of-entry, CBP’s authority is checked somewhat in that such searches do not include information located solely in the cloud. Information subject to search must be physically stored on the device in order to be accessible at the port-of-entry. Additionally, examination of attorney-client privileged communications contained on electronic devices first requires CBP’s consultation with Associate/Assistant Chief Counsel of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

So what may one do to prevent seizure of an electronic device or avoid disclosure of confidential data to CBP during a border search? The New York and Canadian Bar Associations have compiled the following recommendations:

  • Consider carrying a temporary or travel laptop cleansed of sensitive local documents and information. Access data through a VPN connection or cloud-based warehousing.
  • Consider carrying temporary mobile devices stripped of contacts and other confidential information. Have calls forwarded from your office number to the unpublished mobile number when traveling.
  • Back up data and shut down your electronic device well before reaching the inspection area to eliminate access to Random Access Memory.
  • Use an alternate account to hold sensitive information. Apply strong encryption and complex passwords.
  • Partition and encrypt the hard drive.
  • Protect the data port.
  • Clean your electronic device(s) following return.
  • Wipe smartphones remotely.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Source: article originally published by Mondaq.com, author: Cory, J (2017:11)

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Customs and Border Protection is analyzing the distance between travelers’ eyes and the width of their foreheads to better track international travelers.

This week the agency began using facial recognition technology at Bush Intercontinental Airport on one daily flight departing Houston for Tokyo.

“The use of biometrics is approaching an almost everyday type of experience,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research company. “It’s much more common now than it was 10 to 20 years ago.”

Similar technology is increasingly used everywhere. For instance, fingerprints are used to unlock phones and access secure banking information. Facebook can automatically recognize and tag friends in photos. And a variety of airport entities, ranging from airlines to the Transportation Security Administration, also are using biometric data to enhance security and expedite traveling.

Some still question the reliability of facial recognition technology, but it has evolved over the years and continues improving.

Delta and JetBlue recently announced collaborations with Customs and Border Protection to integrate facial recognition technology as part of the boarding process. And Customs began piloting its own facial recognition technology in June 2016 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The technology then was rolled out at Washington Dulles International Airport in May 2017, and seven additional airports will receive the technology in the next several months.

Customs “sees potential for the technology to transform the travel process provided privacy issues can be addressed,” an agency spokesperson said in an email.

“The use of biometrics to confirm identity from the beginning to the end of travel has the potential to reduce the frequency travelers have to present travel documents throughout the airport.”

Currently, the system takes pictures of individual travelers right before they board an international flight. That photo is then compared with a flight-specific photo gallery Customs and Border Protection created using travel documents passengers provided to the airline.

Officials say capturing this type of biometric information will ensure travelers aren’t lying about their identity. And the agency spokesperson emphasized that Customs worked closely with its privacy office. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the photo of that traveler – having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen – is discarded after a short period of time.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any resistance by consumers to this,” Harteveldt said, “provided they’re given very clear explanations about what information is being collected, why it’s being collected and a high-level understanding of the safeguards that will be taken to keep their biometrics data safe and secure.”

 Opinions vary on whether capturing such data from departing travelers will boost security or hurt airlines’ on-time performance. But the point is moot. Laws requiring exit control have been on the books for many years.

“It is already required by law, and it has taken way too long to implement an effective exit technology,” said Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that pushes for stricter immigration controls.

He said monitoring foreign travelers as they leave the U.S. helps enforce immigration laws. And if visitors enter the country legally but officials later realize they pose a threat, this exit system will tell officials if they are still in the U.S.

Harteveldt, however, said passport and visa information is already collected when travelers leave the country. He doesn’t believe biometrics are needed.”I’m just not sure it adds a lot of value to the exit process,” he said.

But compared with fingerprint technology, Harteveldt said facial scanning can be faster and cleaner. There’s no need to touch anything. Customs officers at Bush Intercontinental began taking the fingerprints of some departing international travelers in 2015.

Anthony Roman, president of global investigation and risk management firm Roman & Associates, said the best type of security is layered and uses cross-verification, such as a Customs and Border Protection officer checking passports, fingerprinting machines and facial recognition technology.

As for the latter, he said developers claim to have solved problems found in the older facial recognition technology. These past problems included false readings caused by a shadow on the face, blinking at the wrong time or even grimacing. Algorithms were also slow at processing the data.

The new technology is supposed to be faster and more accurate. “Whether that’s true or not, time will tell,” Roman said.

Arthur is still waiting to see that facial recognition technology is as reliable as fingerprinting. He wants to know the number of false positives and if facial recognition technology is affected by haircuts, beards or glasses.

They both agree, however, that the vigilance is warranted.

“Our technology needs to keep evolving,” Roman said. “We need to keep changing what we’re doing. It makes it more difficult for the insurgents to create long-term research and development projects to overcome existing technology.” Source: Houston Chronicle

USCBPThe US government is proposing making social media accounts part of the visa screening process for entry into the country.

US Customs and Border Protection’s proposed change would add a line on both the online and paper forms of the visa application form that visitors to the US must fill out if they do not have a visa and are planning on staying for up to 90 days.

The following question would be added to both the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (Esta) and I-94W forms: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

The information will be optional, for now, but the proposed change published by the US Federal Register states that “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

The proposal is currently under consultation, with US government taking comments until 22 August.

The change forms part of the plan by the US DHS to scrutinise social media activity of visa applicants and those wishing to enter the country, following the San Bernardino killings in California, in which social media profiles formed part of the investigations along with an iPhone 5C.

Current DHS pilot programmes are being kept under wraps but are said to scan a limited amount of social media posts.

The pilot programmes currently used by DHS do not sweep up all social media posts, though government officials have kept details of the programmes closely held, as they do not want to reveal the precise process they use to try and identify potential threats.

It’s unclear if or how the DHS would verify information written on a form before hitting border control, leaving the possibility of false information being put down, and while the information may be optional, it will likely be difficult to discern what is and isn’t required on the form.

The US government approves around 10m visa applications a year and had 77.5 million foreign visitors in 2015. Collecting social media accounts for all visitors could produce one of the largest government-controlled databases of its kind almost overnight. Source: Customstoday

SARS Customs intercepted a male traveller from Tanzania carrying narcotics worth over R12-million at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday (24 January 2016).

The bust took place when the 36-year old man, who was carrying two large suitcases, was asked to put his luggage through the Customs scanner. The scanner image revealed 10 clear plastic bags that contained a white crystal substance.

Upon investigation this turned out to be 10 bags of Ephedrine. The total weight of the consignment was 40.20 kg with an estimated street value of R12 060 000. The man has been handed over to the South African Police Service and he is expected to appear in court. Source and photos: SARS

product_tsaprecheck_hero_750x200The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently achieved two major milestones for its trusted traveler programs. The Transportation Security Administration Pre✓ application program, which began in December 2013, has now enrolled more than half a million travelers.

Additionally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has enrolled more than three million users in their trusted traveler programs: Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. Together, all of these DHS trusted traveler programs provide an improved passenger experience, while enhancing security and increasing system-wide efficiencies.

TSA Pre✓ allows low-risk travelers to experience faster, more efficient screening at 118 U.S. airports nationwide currently. TSA Pre✓ is an expedited screening program that allows pre-approved airline travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on in select screening lanes.

The TSA Pre✓ application program allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to directly enroll in TSA Pre✓. Once approved, travelers will receive a “Known Traveler Number” and will have the opportunity to utilize TSA Pre✓ lanes at select security checkpoints when flying on a participating carrier: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

Upon arrival in the United States from abroad, Global Entry members are able to bypass the traditional CBP inspection lines and use an automated kiosk. With more than 70,000 new applicants each month, travelers enrolled in this program can scan their passport and fingerprints, answer the customs declaration questions using the kiosk’s touch screen and proceed with a receipt — the whole process only takes about one minute. Launched in 2008, as a pilot program, Global Entry is now a permanent program and has 51 locations in the U.S. and at CBP Preclearance stations in Canada. These locations serve 99 percent of incoming travelers to the United States. Source: dhs.gov

mobile-passport-control-app-by-cbpU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today announced the launch of the first authorized app to expedite a traveler’s entry process into the United States. Mobile Passport Control (MPC) will allow eligible travelers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form via a smartphone or tablet prior to CBP inspection. This first-of-its-kind app was developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) in partnership with CBP as part of a pilot program at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. IPhone and iPad users can download the app for free from Apple’s App Store.

Eligible travelers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will be able to use the app beginning Aug. 13. MPC is expected to expand to more airports later this year and to Android smartphone users in the future.

“CBP continues to transform the international arrivals experience for travelers by offering new and innovative ways to expedite entry into the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “By offering this app to passengers, we hope to build upon the success we have already experienced with Automated Passport Control, which has resulted in decreases in wait times as much as 25-40 percent, even with continued growth in international arrivals.”

MPC currently offers U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors a more efficient and secure in-person inspection between the CBP officer and the traveler upon arrival in the United States. Much like Automated Passport Control, the app does not require pre-approval, is free-to-use and does not collect any new information on travelers. As a result, travelers will experience shorter wait times, less congestion and faster processing.

“Mobile Passport exemplifies the forward-thinking commitment CBP and airports have to improving the passenger experience when entering the United States,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “This partnership between CBP and ACI-NA also represents an outstanding example of industry and government working together to find smart, cost-effective solutions. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with CBP as Mobile Passport begins its roll-out at U.S. airports later this year.”

There are five easy steps to MPC:

  • Download the Mobile Passport Control App from the Apple App Store prior to arriving
  • Create a profile with your passport information
  • Complete the “New Trip” section upon arrival in the United States
  • Submit your customs declaration form through the app to receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued
  • Bring your passport and smartphone or tablet with your digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer

ACI-NA contracted with Airside Mobile in MPC’s technical development. Information about Mobile Passport, including how to download, user eligibility and other frequently asked questions, is available on the Travel section of the CBP.gov website and the Airside Mobile website.

MPC is just one part of CBP’s resource optimization strategy which is transforming the way CBP does business in land, air and sea environments. As part of its commitment to innovation, CBP last year rolled out Automated Passport Control, which is now available in 22 locations, and automated the I-94 form. CBP has also enrolled more than two million travelers in trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. These programs allow CBP officers to process travelers safely and efficiently while enhancing security and reducing operational costs. Source: USCBP

Inter-Departmental CooperationSouth Africa’s first maritime port of entry control centre represents a milestone in the country’s journey to secure, modernise and control its borders, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said at the opening of the centre at Cowrie Port in Cape Town harbour last week on Friday.

The centre puts all the government departments and agencies involved in immigration and border control under one roof. These include the departments of home affairs, health, agriculture and fisheries, the SA Police Service (border police and crime intelligence), and the SA Revenue Service (Customs). The state-of-the-art centre would not only improve security and immigration issues, but would also serve to enhance trade and South Africa’s status as a logistical gateway to Africa, Gordhan said.

Trade

The rationale behind the centre was in line with the National Development Plan, the minister said. Among other things, the NDP aims to stimulate growth by lowering the cost of doing business in South Africa, improving the country’s competitiveness and exports, and linking local products with other emerging markets. Gordhan said the fast-growing markets of Africa represented important new markets, and the NDP was committed to increasing South Africa’s trade with its regional neighbours from 15% to 30%.

‘Complex borders’

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, also speaking at Friday’s opening, said the centre had been designed “to accommodate in one spot not only customs, excise and immigration, but also health, safety and intelligence.

“Ports are complex borders to manage. Cowrie Place will provide the space and facilities to manage passengers and cargoes more efficiently than before.” Pandor said the government hoped to establish a border management agency by the end of 2016, taking advantage of the lessons learnt from Cowrie Place. A flagship feature of Cowrie Place is the co-ordination monitoring centre, where the data and information will be fed, assimilated and made available to all government department and agencies involved in the maritime border management.

“For the bona fide tourist or member of the trade community, this will mean better service,” Gordhan said. “For those who intend to challenge the laws of our country, be warned, as we intend to raise the bar of compliance by an order of magnitude.”

Important port

Cape Town’s port is oldest in South Africa, but despite changes to its maritime culture brought by air travel and containerisation, it is still an important point of entry. The port processes more than 870 000 containers as well as nearly 730 000 tons of dry bulk per annum, Pandor said.

A total of 6 173 commercial vessels and 55 passenger vessels entered and/or left the port in 2013, while more than 62 000 people entered and/or departed from Cape Town harbour. Pandor said E-berth at the harbour would be developed into a fully fledged passenger liner terminal to complement Cowrie Place.

south_african_airportsThree South African airports have made it into Skytrax’s top 10 list of Domestic airports around the world.

Durban’s King Shaka International Airport was voted third Best Domestic Airport in the world, after Tokyo International Airport Haneda in Japan and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in China.

Cape Town International claimed the 6th position on the list, while OR Tambo in Johannesburg came in at number 10.

While all the airports listed in this category serve as international airports, the feedback from domestic travellers is exceptionally good.

Today.com reports that Singapore’s Changi Airport was voted the world’s Best Airport over all for the second year in a row.

World Airport Awards by Skytrax are based on 12.85 million customer nominations and the survey included 410 airports.

Passengers were asked to rate 39 key performance indicators, including check-in, arrivals and transfers.

Changi received a double accolade, as it was also named the best airport for leisure amenities, thanks to Terminal 2’s its spectacular ‘nature trail,’ boasting a cactus, orchid, sunflower and butterfly garden as well as a koi pond. Terminal Three also has Singapore’s tallest indoor slide. Source: News24.com

Overzealous Customs officials of the UK Border and Immigration Service are in the pooh for breaking the rules! While customs officials now require to redress their conduct, what of the thousands of airport ground handling staff who pilfer passenger’s luggage without much investigation or reprisal?

If you’ve ever come back from holiday and been sure your carefully packed luggage wasn’t quite how you’d left it, you may not have been imagining things. ‘Snooping’ customs officials are secretly searching the bags of thousands of air passengers. Little-known powers allow covert searches to check if passengers are bringing too much alcohol or too many cigarettes into the country. If nothing is found, passengers are never told their suitcases have been opened and interfered with.

Covert luggage searches are carried out on inbound flights after items are taken off planes, but before they are placed on the carousel for passengers to collect

Covert luggage searches are carried out on inbound flights after items are taken off planes, but before they are placed on the carousel for passengers to collect

But customs officials are not keeping records of fruitless searches – making it impossible to know the true scale of the snooping. And their own inspectors said the lack of records mean searches may have been disproportionate and unlawful. They also warned that officials were ignoring guidance suggesting they needed written authorisation for such searches, and that the advice they were issued with was ‘contradictory’. Privacy campaigners said the powers should be reined in, and proper records kept. The details emerged in a report published today by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine. To read the Report Click Here!

Covert searches are not allowed under current guidance for border officials. The Border Force Enforcement Handbook says such searches are ‘banned’ unless they take place as part of a specific operation. Even then, when the passenger is ‘not in attendance’, officials are told to obtain written authorisation from a senior manager in advance, apart from in exceptional circumstances.

But today’s report makes clear that this guidance was ignored – and is contradicted by other rules. Officials were also using draft guidance from 2008, which permits covert searches without written authorisation when used ‘proportionately’. But it was only valid until September of that year. The Home Office was unable to provide any figures for the number of searches at other airports. Mr Vine’s inspectors found that 1,147 pieces of luggage were seized at Birmingham Airport following secret searches in the year to September 2012.

He said: ‘I found there was no central record to show occasions where covert baggage searches were carried out, but no seizures were made. The absence of these records meant that no assurance could be provided to demonstrate that this power was being used in a lawful, proportionate and controlled manner.’

Covert luggage searches are carried out on inbound flights after items are taken off planes, but before they are placed on the carousel for passengers to collect.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The fact the figures are not being properly collected begs the question if staff think they can get away with snooping in people’s luggage in search of a quick laugh or cheap thrill.’

A Border Force spokesman said: ‘Searching baggage, including when the owner is not present, is a legal and proportionate response to this issue. Any such searches must be authorised by a senior officer. Source: Mail Online

The queues at Beit Bridge

The queues at Beit Bridge

Beitbridge Border Post recorded a sharp increase in the number of travellers who passed through during the festive season with statistics indicating that 524 511 people passed through the port of entry between 14 December last year and 7 January this year compared to 392 660 during the same period the previous year. The assistant regional immigration manager in charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Charles Gwede, said they handled  229 023 travellers on the exit side, an 11 percent increase compared to the last festive season when 202 348 people left the country.

On the arrivals side, 295 488 travellers entered the country, a 35 percent surge compared to the last festive season when immigration officials handled 190 312 travellers. The highest number of travellers on the entry side was recorded on 23 December when 42 435 people entered the country through the country’s busiest port of entry. On the departure side, the highest number was recorded on 3 January when 22 625 people left the country.

“This festive season between 14 December and 7 January, we handled 524 511 travellers, marking a 25 percent increase in the number of people who passed through Beitbridge during the festive season compared to the previous year when we handled 392 660 travellers,” said Gwede. Most of the travellers that they handled were Zimbabweans working in South Africa commonly known as injiva, who had visited home for the Christmas holidays. He attributed the increase in the number of travellers to the South African documentation exercise, which saw many Zimbabweans working in that country acquiring permits.

Many of Zimbabweans staying and working in South Africa are now documented after they acquired authentic permits during the regularisation exercise in that country hence they could now travel freely. The documents also enabled them to drive foreign registered vehicles, which is another factor that resulted in an increase in the volume of vehicular traffic during this festive period compared to the previous years. The South African government embarked on the process of documenting Zimbabweans illegally staying in that country between 5 May 2009 and 31 July 2010 during which over 275 000 applications from Zimbabweans were processed while several others were turned down and some are still pending. Source: The Chronical, Zimbabwe

beitbridge

Beitbridge – crossing the Limpopo river

The Department of Immigration in Beitbridge has put in place mechanisms aimed at dealing with congestion at the country’s busiest border post in anticipation of an increase in the volume of traffic during the festive period. Assistant regional immigration manager in charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Charles Gwede, said they have since held a series of meetings with key stakeholders and their South African counterparts to address congestion at the border.

“We have started preparing for the festive period in anticipation of a huge influx of travellers and all necessary strategies are now in place to help speed up the clearance of people during the festive period,” he said. “We are suspending leave and off-days for staff between 15 December and 16 January next year.

“As part of our decongestion drive we will scramble our shifts to maximise on manpower during the normal and extra peak days. In fact, starting from 15 December we expect a huge influx of travellers hence between 14 and 17 December, 21 and 24 December and 4 to 7 January, we will dissolve our shifts to ensure that we have more officers per shift who would effectively manage the queues and speed up the clearance process,” he said.

Mr Gwede said they were expecting 20 officers from other stations to beef up the local staff and ensure that all check points and counters were adequately manned. Beitbridge Border Post has a staff complement of 47 officers and support staff.

“As border stakeholders, we held several inter-border meetings with our South African counterparts to discuss and explore ways and strategies aimed at dealing with congestion during extra peak periods.

As part of their decongestion strategy, Mr Gwede said they would categorise travellers and create more counters to reduce queues. According to statistics, immigration officials at the border handled 73 825 travellers between Monday and Wednesday on both arrival and departure sides.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) spokesperson, Mr Canisio Mudzimu, said they would deploy relief officers to Beitbridge Border Post to beef up the local staff and help speed up the customs clearance process. “We are geared up in terms of facilitating the smooth movement of both human and vehicular traffic passing through Beitbridge Border Post during the festive season. We will deploy extra officers from less busy stations to Beitbridge Border Post during the festive period and to assist in border operations,” he said.

Beitbridge Border Post requires at least 247 customs officers to man it. The border post, which is the country’s busiest inland port of entry, has an establishment 141 officers. Mr Mudzimu said they would create separate traffic lanes to cater for tourists, returning residents, private motorists, commercial, buses and pedestrians to speed up the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.

Touts and bogus clearing agents continue to find their way into the customs yard where they would swindle unsuspecting travellers of their money under the guise of offering assistance. Beitbridge is the busiest inland port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa, which handles a huge volume of both human and vehicular traffic passing though daily. Commercial trucks destined for East and Central African countries such as Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia also pass through the border post.

On a normal day, the border handles between 6 000 and 8 000 travellers daily with the figures rising to 20 000 during the peak period. Source: Bulawayo24.com

For ‘smoking’ travellers to Australia, please read up on the new duty-free concessions before you decide to stock up.

The reduced tobacco duty-free limit came into effect on 1 September 2012. It was announced in the 2012-13 Federal Budget that the duty-free concession on tobacco products would change.

Travellers aged 18 years or over can bring 50 cigarettes or 50 grams of cigars or tobacco products duty-free into Australia with you. All tobacco products in accompanied baggage are included in this category, regardless of where or how they were purchased.

Be aware that if you exceed Australia’s duty-free limits, duty and tax will apply on ALL items of that type (general goods, alcohol or tobacco), not just the goods over the limit. The general goods and alcohol duty-free concessions remain the same. Source: Australian Customs Service

Australia’s high court recently upheld the government’s decision to implement a law which requires cigarettes to be sold in olive green packets, with graphic images warning of the consequences of smoking. The law is to come into effect on 1 December 2012. The South African authorities appear to be following the same route and are currently ‘testing’ the concept of the olive green packets (what’s there to test?). Despite the obvious reaction of the Tobacco Inc. to the new law, it is not difficult to see that it will make anti-counterfeit enforcement even more difficult for authorities. Perhaps the UK liquor boys are ahead in their thinking – import liquor in bulk and bottle it in the UK, this way you’re in charge of the packaging and labelling. Health officials are definitely more concerned with health than profit.

Spare a thought for the informal traders in this region. The terminology is also somewhat humorous, if not ‘offensive’ to an overly liberal mind – democratic South Africans in particular.

Trade along the Rwanda-DRC border is still going strong, although with some difficulty, despite the ongoing political tensions between the two neighbors.The Rwanda Focus visited Gisenyi, from where it has been reported that several Rwandan civilians who have attempted to cross into DRC for business have allegedly been arrested and tortured.

“You can’t go in there but if you insist, then be ready to die or to be tortured by the authorities in Congo,” said Safina Mukankusi, a cross-border trader. According to locals here, anyone with links to Rwanda in form of passport, looks or language is a target for the Congolese authorities. The irony is Gisenyi is full of Congolese civilians loaded with all sorts of merchandise bought from Rwandan markets which they then carry to the DRC.

It’s also here that massive petty smuggling takes place. “There are so many ‘fat’ women around here,” said a Rwandan customs official, explaining they are stuffed with several garments in which they then hide commodities such as alcohol and sell them on the Rwandan side at a profit. “Some make more than 20 trips per da,y often smuggling a single commodity per journey… but these are poor people who are looking for a meal from their petty deals,” the official revealed. From the proceeds from smuggled goods, the Congolese then buy food and all sorts of stuff which they take back home to sell.

With the current instability however, there’s a new development. “Many Congo-men are coming to sleep here at night and go back home during day for fear of attacks,” said Fidel, a resident of Gisenyi. He says most of them sleep on the streets while others have rented some cheap houses in which they spend the night, often in groups.

Looking at the people here, it’s quite hard to imagine that their country is home to some of the world’s most valuable minerals such as gold and diamonds. Bribes and other corrupt dealings are the quickest ways to get a service done according to Rwandan traders. “Once they know you have money, they will detain you until you part with some of it, it’s mostly those that don’t have anything who are tortured,” explained Laurent Makubu, who claims he has been detained but bribed the Congolese police with $15 to secure his freedom.

While the Congolese who cross to Rwanda report no harassment, it remains a mystery why their Rwandan counterparts are the target of mistreatment on the other side. As a result, most Rwandan traders say they have resorted to using Congolese middlemen to get goods from the DRC side but at a much higher cost as the middlemen charge for their service. Source: Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

The South African government has reaffirmed that the green barcoded identity (ID) book will be phased out and replaced with a new smartcard ID after Cabinet endorsed a Department of Home Affairs (DHA) pilot project to test the hardware and software used to produce the cards. The new card would be phased in over a period of about four years and would embrace a contactless chip, which Cabinet said was based on international trends and standards.

The smartcard solution would also be integrated with the deployment of a new National Identity System that would digitally capture biometric and biographical details of all South Africans and foreign nationals living inside South Africa. Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma reported recently that the integrated system would be linked to systems for movement control, permitting, as well as asylum seeker and refugee management.

The DHA planned to issue some 2 000 smartcard ID’s during the pilot phase, which was unveiled to lawmakers earlier in the month. The pilot phase would prioritise people applying for IDs for the first time and was likely to cost about R5-million.

The first issue of the smartcard would be free of charge, with the cost implications for reissuance yet to be determined.The test phase would enable the department to test its systems and enable government to procure the required machinery to produce the volume of cards that will be required to phase out the green barcoded ID books. No indication was given as to when a tender would be issued for the procurement of the full-scale system, or what the solution was likely to cost.

The department would collaborate with the Departments of Transport, Health and Social Development to integrate the smartcard with other official documents, such as drivers and firearm licences, social grants and those that would be associated with access to the proposed National Health Insurance scheme. Source: Creamer Media

In an ongoing effort to reduce wait times at the International Bridge, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations will pilot a project to bring vehicles to the inspection booths in less time.
The stop signs will be placed in all three upper lanes and will shorten the “pull up” distance to the booth. This allows vehicles to queue up quicker. “Efficacy in movement is paramount to this project’s success. We are always trying to improve the flow of legitimate traffic while enforcing the laws of the United States,” said Patrick Wilson, CBP Sault Ste. Marie Assistant Port Director.

The Sault Ste Marie port of entry has a unique design that separates commercial traffic from car traffic, creating an upper and lower plaza. The focus of this project will be on the upper plaza only and will not affect the flow of traffic on the lower plaza.

Stop signs will be placed in all three upper lanes beginning Friday, April 20. The stop signs will shorten the “pull up” distance to the booth. This allows vehicles to queue up quicker. The stop signs will be placed near Radio Frequency Identification readers where the traveling public can display their Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative RFID-enabled document to pre-populate the officer’s computer screens.

CBP is testing the theory that they can process more travelers each hour by reducing the amount of time it takes each vehicle to get to the inspecting officer. This pilot project will incorporate a two-stop sign process. Upon entering the upper plaza, vehicles will be required to stop at the first existing stop sign. As the vehicle ahead clears, travelers will move to the next new stop sign and present their ID to the RFID reader. Once the vehicle at the inspection booth clears, travelers will proceed to the inspection booth.

Vehicles with trailers/campers are asked to use the lower plaza lanes so as not to impede the functionality of installed equipment. LED signage will be adjusted to notify motorists of this change.

CBP officers will direct traffic periodically during this project to help educate travelers on this new process. “We continue to look for efficiencies in our processes to improve the border crossing experience. If we can save a couple of seconds of inspection time per vehicle, the time savings should reduce each traveler’s wait,” said Assistant Port Director Wilson. Source: http://www.cbp.com