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14th conference of the European Migration Network: “The role of new technologies in migration processes” – summary

On 21–22 June 2018, in Voivodeship Police Headquarters in Cracow at 109 Mogilska Street, the 14th conference of the European Migration Network titled “The role of new technologies in migration processes” took place. The aim of the conference was to gather experts to exchange experiences and opinions on the role of new technologies in migration processes.

The conference also provided an opportunity to discuss the current approach to ICT for better migration management, to share knowledge and exchange experiences with experts who work on similar issues in different countries. During the conference, we also tried to identify best practices, draw conclusions and formulate recommendations in this matter.

The conference was opened by Minister Renata Szczęch, the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, who greeted the participants. She primarily spoke of the definition of new technologies, according to which they are information transfer tools – a vast assortment of goods, applications and services used for the production, storage, processing, distribution and exchange of information. The Minister devoted a considerable part of her speech to robotisation. She emphasised that it is worth to reflect on how robotisation and automation will affect migration processes. She also asked questions which became the main theme of the conference: Will robots replace typical “migration-based” professions such as jobs in the agriculture or gastronomy sector, where waiters are already being replaced by robots? Will the demand for immigrants decline as a result, and will the shortages on the labour market be filled by robots and artificial intelligence? Or maybe new migratory destinations will emerge, where technologies are not yet advanced and people will be more relevant than machines – e.g. in Africa. The opening speech was given by Mrs. Ann-Charlotte Nygård, Project Manager of the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), Freedoms and Justice Department. She pointed out the intensified actions and various legal solutions that have been implemented in the last few years in the scope of the considered threats.   She referred to biometrics as an identification system, the multitasking of new technologies, as well as to the fact that new technologies should be compatible to ensure that the right person is identified. She also mentioned the role of the FRA – the advisory services the agency provides in the area of fundamental rights, as new technologies and migrations are particularly sensitive in this respect.

Thereafter, the first panel of the conference – “New technologies and migration management” – began. Mr. Krzysztof Komorowski, an expert on new technologies of the Sobieski Institute, was the moderator of the panel. Once the subject was introduced, he gave the floor to experts. Mr. Piotr Gajewski, Director of the State Systems Department at the Ministry of Digital Affairs, was the first one to speak. In his presentation, he presented state systems in place in Poland, both those managed by the Ministry and those gathering data on foreigners. He discussed the socio-economic priorities of migration policy. He also presented the plans of the Ministry of Digital Affairs which in the near future will greatly simplify and speed up citizens' contact with offices. The next speaker was Mrs. Anna Rostocka, Director of the Polish Office of the International Organisation for Migration. She mentioned that new technologies and border management contribute to the security of all of us and protect vulnerable migrants. She presented the MIDAS system and biometric solutions used by IOM in 80 countries around the world. Another speaker was Mrs. Nino Ghvinadze, an analyst from the Georgian Commission on Migration which is a part of the Public Service Development Agency under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. Mrs. Ghvinadze presented solutions regarding new technologies applicable to migration in Georgia. She described the advantages of the UMAS system (Unified Migration Analytical System) which allowed to unify migration data from various ministries and agencies in Georgia. The next speaker was Mrs. Maria Pamuła representing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She presented data on the use of new technologies in centres operated by the UNHCR. She said that UNHCR makes use of modern technologies for identifying and tracking the migration history of a given migrant. The last speaker of the panel was Lieutenant Paweł Hołoweńko of the Border Guard. He presented ICT systems supporting the migration management process, focusing in particular on the Foreigner Service System of the Border Guard – the VIS system. Mr. Hołoweńko also described the planned IT solutions related to the issues covered by the analysis. The moderator made a conclusion from the panel, having previously asked the participants one concluding question each. The further interesting discussion between the panel participants and the gathered participants continued in the backstage.

The second panel was opened by its moderator, Mrs. Jolanta Szymańska, an expert on migration of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, who gave an introduction to the second panel of the conference – “New technologies and migrants”. Mrs. Justyna Salamońska from the Centre of Migration Research at the University of Warsaw was the first one to deliver a presentation. She acquainted the participants with the definition of “multiple migrants”. She presented methods of online research, which are becoming increasingly important in the age of digitalisation. The next speaker in this panel was Mrs. Martina Bofulin of the Slovenian Migration Institute. She particularly focused on increasing the access to information for migrants from Danube region. She presented the barriers faced by migrants coming from this region as well as proposed solutions. Mr. Bartłomiej Michałowski, an expert on new technologies from the Sobieski Institute, focused on the links between the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and migration. He attempted to find an answer to the question: How should Poland contribute to the next technological change? He came to the interesting conclusion that the great changes in technology were related to the migration and that new technologies make it possible to work from any place in the world, even from underdeveloped regions. The next speaker was Mrs. Justyna Orłowska from the IT Department of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy. She presented a project titled “Monitoring the work and stay of foreigners on the territory of the Republic of Poland for economic purposes”. She presented a variety of benefits stemming from the implementation of the project, including faster detection and elimination of abuses related to illegal employment of foreigners, providing translations of websites devoted to work in Poland and of the Central Job Offer Database website. The last speaker was Mr. Marcin Borodzik, the CEO of Epparo. As the only representative of entrepreneurs, he stated that new employees are needed in Poland, especially in the IT sector. Migrants – migrants from Ukraine in particular – partially satisfy this demand. As the panel was brought to an end, the audience raised a number of questions. After the panel participants answered the questions, Mrs. Jolanta Szymańska concluded the panel.

On the second day of the conference, the third panel titled “New technologies in migration policies of the different countries” was held. The moderator was Mrs. Maria Pamuła from UNHCR, who introduced the topic of the panel in the form of a discussion. The first speaker was Ambassador of Norway, Mr. Olav Myklebust, who presented the Norwegian migration policy and the use of new technologies, including 22 decisions on migrants made in 2018, in a fully automated manner. He also spoke of Norway's open migration policy which supports refugees. The next speaker was Mrs. Adrienne Körmendy, Consul General of Hungary. She reminded that Hungary's border with Serbia is the external border of the European Union and – particularly during the mass inflow of immigrants in 2015 – the Hungarian government has taken care of the safety of its compatriots, which will also guarantee the safety of the European Union as a whole. The Consul stated that Hungary uses many modern technologies which are often used at borders to identify migrants.  A representative of the American continent, Canadian Consul James Tieman, spoke next. He presented detailed solutions, in particular for submitting visa applications (express entry for highly qualified economic migrants and eTA for those coming to Canada for tourism purposes). He also said that, despite being a small country in terms of population, Canada can maintain a high level of development by relying on economic immigrants, who are essential to the Canadian labour market. The next speaker was the Honorary Consul of Ecuador, Mrs. Karolina Grabowska. She spoke of Uruguay as of a country open to immigrants as well as of the absence of illegal migration. Although immigration in Uruguay does not play a major role, the Consul believes that it has a positive impact on the economy. The next voice in the discussion came from a country still belonging to the European Union – the United Kingdom. It was represented by Mrs. Emma Baines, the I Secretary of the Embassy of the United Kingdom.  She pointed out that the United Kingdom is advanced in terms of new technologies, which provides security with regard to the inflow of immigrants. People applying for visas can submit their application online, there are common electronic systems for migrants, as well as biometric passports. Mrs. Katarzyna Dzidt, Development Director of the Trade Department of the Israeli Embassy presented ICT solutions for this Middle East country. She paid particular attention to the fact that Israel is the size of the Zachodniopomorskie Voivodeship and all of its inhabitants are immigrants. In Israel, a great emphasis is placed on security and technology matters. As an example, Ben Gurion Airport uses one of the best security systems in the world. A full biometric verification system is in place in Israel as well.   

The conference was concluded by Mrs. Joanna Sosnowska, the national coordinator of the European Migration Network in Poland.  She noted that information systems can feature built-in tools for data analysis, statistical data generation, reporting, forecasting, information exchange and provision of administrative services. While speaking of the latest developments in the field of information systems, she added that they also play an important role in combating identity fraud, preventing the illegal or secondary issuing of travel documents or identity documents. Biometric data are being used more and more widely in travel documents and migration-related information systems. Mrs. Joanna stressed the importance of the subject, encouraged further debate on this issue, and also invited to the next year's conference of the European Migration Network in Poland.

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