U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is providing training classes to border authorities in Eastern European countries, Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan announced Wednesday.
This summer, CBP will also deploy a U.S. Border Patrol advisor to Warsaw, Poland, McAleenan announced following his return from a tour of border security operations in Poland, Latvia and Estonia. The CBP Law Enforcement Liaison will assist European Union member states by providing expertise to help them better secure their borders from illegal immigration and a rising tide of refugees.
In Piusa, Estonia, Commissioner McAleenan met with Minister of Interior Andres Anvelt and Director General of Police and Border Guard Elmer Vaher and observed the first iteration of the Mobile Tactical Team training program.
In the training, U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Group experts are teaching tactics to help improve border agent response times and capabilities.
The four-week course is designed to increase and improve cross-border operations, communication, cooperation and interoperability among the Baltic partners. Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania are participating in the training with similar exercises to occur in Latvia and Lithuania in the coming months.
In Poland, Commissioner McAleenan and his CBP delegation visited the Medyka border crossing along Poland’s border with the Ukraine to observe border infrastructure and equipment used to secure the green border. There, the Polish Border Guard demonstrated scanner operations for scanning freight cars passing through the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing in Medyka.
The CBP delegation also visited the border crossing in Korczowa, including a site visit on the Ukrainian side at the Polish-Ukrainian Consultation Point.
In Latvia, Commissioner McAleenan met with Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, Chief of the State Border Guard General Normunds Garbars and other officials whom he briefed on CBP current efforts, such as the Mobile Tactical Team training program.
McAleen says he has invited his Eastern Europeans colleagues to visit America to observe U.S. border operations first-hand:
“We discussed many of the pressing border security challenges facing our organizations and I was able to observe some of their challenges along 1,000 miles of the European Union’s eastern external border.
“I invited my counterparts to tour CBP operations to see how we’ve deployed an effective combination of personnel, technology and infrastructure to secure U.S. borders.”
“I also emphasized that CBP is committed to help strengthen and improve border security capabilities throughout the region.”
These Eastern European nations are seeking to shore up border security in response to an influx of refugees and illegal immigration.
Polish border security challenges include both the broader EU-wide refugee crisis, as well as the issue of Ukrainian economic migrants to Poland. Poland is refusing to accept migrants because they are mostly economic migrants (not war refugees), take jobs Polish citizens need, and may pose a terrorism threat. Government officials say it’s infeasible to try to distinguish refugees from job-seekers.
The number of economic migrants into Poland from Ukraine reportedly tops half a million people, and a total of up to two million Ukrainians are temporarily or permanently residing in Poland.
Latvia has begun building a border fence with a minimum height of two meters and a length of several tens of kilometers at the Latvian-Belarusian border in order to protect the country from illegal immigrants and other border crossers.
In March, members of an organized crime ring performing illegal crossing of the state border and bringing in illegal immigrants were apprehended by Latvian authorities.
In Estonia, constant technical malfunctions and human error are plaguing border security operations at its Russian border. Five critical failures have been reported in the past six months alone, including hardware and software problems and radar systems failing for as many as 30 hours at a time.
In Finland, illegal immigration has become a growing burden on public social and health care service resources. It is also reportedly stoking crime and the expansion of a shadow economy. As a result, the country’s ministerial working group on migration has created an action plan of 25 measures for combating illegal immigration in Finland.