(Beirut, February 23, 2018) - The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) celebrated the 5th year of operation of its European Union (EU) – funded project Enhanced Capability for Integrated Border Management in Lebanon (IBM Lebanon), on the 23rd of February 2018.

The event was held at the Lebanese Armed Forces Central Non Commissioned Officers club in Fiyadiyeh, and included the participation of representatives of the EU Delegation to Lebanon, representative of the projects’ five beneficiary agencies (Lebanese Armed Forces – LAF; Internal Security Forces – ISF;  The Directorate General of the General Security – GS;  The Lebanese Customs Administration – LCA;  and The Lebanese Civil Defence – LCD), representatives of the Diplomatic Corps to Lebanon, including the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark, amongst other relevant stakeholders to ICMPD, particularly in the context of the IBM Lebanon project.

The event included keynote speeches by EUD Head of Governance and Security Rein Nieland, ICMPD’s Regional Representative to the Middle East Abdul Mawla El Solh, ICMPD Director for Migration Dialogues and Cooperation Martijn Pluim, ICMPD Head of Programme, Border Management and Security Borut Erzen, the Netherlands’ Defence Attaché to Lebanon Lieutenant Colonel Carel Gerritsen, Switzerland’s Immigration Liaison Officer to Lebanon Stefan Rothlisberger, National Danish Police Chief Superintendent Jorgen Harlev and representatives of the 5 agencies.

ICMPD Regional Representative and former Ambassador Abdel Mawla El Solh noted the expanding cooperation between ICMPD and the Lebanese authorities at the level of border management, and the governance and management of migration at a regional level, through difference initiatives. He also emphasised the membership of Lebanon within the ICMPD EUROMED Migration programme launched in 2005, and noted its interactive role at the level of experience sharing. 

ICMPD’s Director for Migration Dialogues and Cooperation Martijn Pluim, noted in his speech that IBM Lebanon has “contributed to the capacity of all border agencies to deliver their services on solid foundations through the provision of infrastructural support to key agencies,” and has enable them “through Lebanon’s Border Control Committee (BCC), to thrive in terms of planning, executing and innovating activities conducive to sound border control modalities in Lebanon.”

EUD Head of Governance and Security Rein Nieland, stated in his speech that “the real challenge in transforming a concept as Integrated Border Management into a reality on the ground is to bring all border agencies to work together and develop synergies in their daily operations. This is the reason why, since the beginning of our assistance, the EU has supported a comprehensive approach which has brought together all border agencies: The Customs, the Directorate General for General Security, the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Civil Defence. All agencies have an important role to ensure safe movement of people and goods and respond to emergencies that could arise at any border point. The EU-funded IBM Lebanon project has also attracted the interest of EU Member States, particularly the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Romania, Poland, and EU partners such as Switzerland. All of these countries have put their efforts together to support Lebanon's effort in effectively managing its border. We can undoubtedly say that IBM Lebanon is a good example, not only of inter-agency cooperation at national level, but also an example of strong international collaboration and synergy in support of Lebanon.”

From his side, the Defence Attaché of the Netherlands Embassy to Lebanon Lieutenant-Colonel Carel Gerritsen noted that “the Netherlands component successfully concluded phase I and II, which were aimed at supporting the Land Border Regiments through ICMPD and the Dutch Royal Marechaussee and National Police. We are looking forward to see the impact of the next step in our assistance; this third phase will focus on improving the interview and investigation techniques of the Military Police and will benefit from expertise from ICMPD as well as from the Dutch Royal Marechaussee and National Police on this subject. Another important objective is to increase the efficacy of Lebanon’s border management agencies in line with democratic norms, and the credibility of their actions in the eyes of Lebanese citizens.”

Immigration Liaison Officer at the Swiss Embassy to Lebanon Mr. Stefan Rothlisberger highlighted the close relation between Switzerland and ICMPD in general and IBM Lebanon in particular.  He also emphasized the role of ICMPD in “bringing some much needed structure and rational argument to the discussion with its focus on Policy & Research, Migration Dialogue and Capacity Building.” Rothlisberger reiterated his country’s growing support and commitment towards to ICMPD; “Switzerland is convinced of the pertinence of the focus as well as of the way, by which ICMPD goes about achieving its goal,” he added.

The event also marked the introduction of a new component supported by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, entitled Danish Project to Support Land Border Security in Lebanon. This component aims to enhance the capacities of Lebanese agencies and personnel involved in land border management at all levels, and contribute to regional stability by supporting Lebanon’s ability to manage its border with Syria. It will focus on the delivery of training and some equipment to the land border and border crossing point personnel and the support of the dog-handling units of ISF.

ICMPD Head of Programme, Border Management and Security Borut Erzen announced that the Danish Advisory Team which is managing the project has been successfully integrated into the structure of ICMPD Lebanon. “We look forward to a fruitful cooperation and to achieving the results that are conducive to the spirit of the project, and to Lebanon’s security, stability, and long term prosperity,” he added.

Chief Superintendent Jorgen Harlev, Head of the Community Policing and Crime Prevention Unit with the National Danish Police informed attendees that “the Danish Advisory Team suggested ICMPD as our new partner,” when it was asked last summer by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to evaluate on the ongoing projects in Lebanon (…) during late summer and autumn last year a contract was drawn up. We have already experienced the benefits of being part of ICMPD. And we are looking forward to move on with our main goal, which is: To Enhance capacities of Lebanese agencies and personnel involved in land border management at all levels and to contribute to regional stability by supporting Lebanon’s capacity to manage its border with Syria,” he added.

Following the opening addresses, representatives of the 5 beneficiary agencies highlighted their respective achievements within IBM Lebanon, and summarized the key landmarks of their cooperation with the project. These comprised the increased skills and expert knowledge of their staff, closer operational inter-agency cooperation, enhanced knowledge exchange with like-minded EU and European counterparts (in countries such as Cyprus, Finland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and the United Kingdom). It also included an exposé of training given by representatives of GS to border management staff in a number of countries outside Lebanon, thereby sharing knowledge, increasing international cooperation and demonstrating the technical proficiency that exists in Lebanon amongst border agencies.

Closing remarks were delivered by IBM Lebanon Project Manager Mr. Rami Bathish who highlighted the growth of the project from a classic two dimensional technical cooperation initiative into a multifaceted programme encompassing a rich mosaic of key partners, both in terms beneficiary base as well as supporting European partners. “Throughout the past years, IBM Lebanon developed niche areas of intervention, which testifies to the feasibility of inclusion in the sphere of international cooperation, which ICMPD is determined to nurture even further in the future,” Bathish said. He also reaffirmed that IBM Lebanon demonstrates the EU’s increasing prominent role as a key player in Lebanon’s security sector. “IBM Lebanon is one of several projects through which the EU has taken a leading position in upholding Lebanon's resilience and capabilities to safeguard its security, both at the border as well as within its national sovereign boundaries,” he added.

Since 2012, the EU has invested EUR 14 Million in IBM Lebanon (both phase I and II), with concrete discussions currently taking place to continue its support for the coming years.

The IBM Lebanon project is funded by the EU and implemented in Lebanon with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.