Border must be impregnable, says Ukrainian border official

Border must be impregnable, says Ukrainian border official

Den, Kiev
11 Aug 04

Europe is helping Ukraine protect its border with Russia, but leaves
Kiev to keep up western borders, Maj-Gen Volodymyr Karas, the chief of
the Western regional directorate of the State Border Service, has
said. Speaking in an interview, he said travelling West has reached
the levels seen before the recent introduction of visa regime by
Ukraine’s western neighbours. Karas said funds allocated by the EU to
beef up Ukraine’s borders and curb illegal migration are being put to
good use, but added he hopes Europe will keep its promises to do
more. The following is the text of the interview with Karas by Iryna
Yehorova, published in the Ukrainian newspaper Den on 11 August under
the title “The border. Correction to Europe”; subheadings are as in
the original:

The last expansion of the European Union to the east came right up to
the borders of Ukraine. The topic of this interview with the chief of
the Western regional directorate of the State Border Service, Maj-Gen
Volodymyr Karas, was how the border is getting along with the EU.

Europe can help Ukraine protect the border with Russia

Yehorova General Karas, how has the change in the status of the
western border practically influenced the work of your directorate?

Karas The current situation developed under the influence of processes
of integration. Now there are visa regimes along practically the
entire western border. (The latest one was introduced in June by
Romania.) However, as we see, there is no commotion on the borders, we
have worked out all issues in concert with our neighbours in defending
state borders. If you look at the flow of passenger and cargo traffic,
we have practically reached the level we had before the visa regimes
took effect .

As far as foreign citizens crossing our borders, their overall volume
has unarguably increased. We are trying to work in a way that will
make for as little discomfort and complaint in crossing the state
border as possible. Of course, not everything is ideal, but I should
note the number of statements and complaints about the tactless
behaviour or illegal actions on the part of border troops has sharply
fallen. We are very strict with those people who do not want to carry
out their responsibilities. And we constantly rotate staff. This year,
we completely rotated staff at the Krakovets crossing point and about
50 per cent at Rava-Ruska. Similar work is being done at other
crossing points, significantly lowering the possibility of abuse of
service position and attempts to carry out corrupt activities.

Yehorova Is staff going to be cut within your department?

Karas The border troops department has just gone through the stage of
reform – on the basis of the border troops, the State Border Service
of Ukraine has been established. So the issue of cutting back staff is
not logical at this stage. According to the law of Ukraine “On the
State Border Service of Ukraine”, the limit on staffing from 1 January
2005 is 50,000 people, of them 42,000 are military servicemen. And
that is the maximum allowable number, while the real, that is factual,
number is less and it has not changed for practically the last five
years. We are placing special emphasis on reaching quality
indicators. We very carefully choose people to fill vacancies in top
posts, giving special attention to the level of their professional
preparation, competency, legal preparation, knowledge of foreign
languages and so on.

Overall, the increase in the number of border troops at the end of the
1990s is connected to building Ukraine’s eastern border. We are now
also expecting an increase in the number of border crossing points on
western borders shared with the EU.

The EU is paying great attention to its borders, investing large sums
into developing them… ellipsis as published I can relate the
following example: for one small segment – 97 km of border with
Slovakia – the EU allocated 50m euros for two years. There are
comparable programmes for developing the border in other EU
countries. Serious funding is being allocated for equipping the
borders with technical means. Everywhere there is night vision
equipment, something we, unfortunately, do not yet have.

The EU is helping our neighbours, but we are basically working by
ourselves. However, in most cases, Europe is aiding in strengthening
our eastern, northern and southern borders. Literally just days ago 90
pieces of equipment including vehicles, radio stations and office
equipment were purchased for the Sumy border patrol unit with funds
from the EU. The same help is expected for the Kharkiv, Luhansk and
Donetsk border patrols for securing the border with Russia. As far as
the western borders, almost everything is pinned on our own
abilities. Although, on the other hand, if the European Union is
helping secure our borders on the east, state funding is freed for
supporting the western borders. The main task the State Border
Service’s western directorate is to ensure that we are not worse than
our neighbours.

The minuses of a transit geography

Yehorova Are you handling it?

Karas Look at the results of our work. Units in the western regional
directorate have detained 3,386 people breaking the law on the state
border. Compared to last year 2003 , this indicator is up 22 per
cent. Eighty per cent of all illegal migrants detained by the State
Border Service are detained by us.

Most of the illegal migrants are from countries in south-east Asia
(China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq). They account for 82
per cent. A significant portion (15 per cent) are from the countries
of the CIS (Chechnya, Armenia and Georgia). Compared to the same
period last year 2003 the number of CIS citizens detained is up 400
per cent.

Nearly 97 per cent of the illegal migrants detained were in organized
groups. The Ukrainian-Slovak section of the border is especially
“active”. This is explained by the attractiveness of Slovak
legislation on granting the status of refugee. A negative role is also
played by the easiness of staying in our border regions. After all,
most migrants coming from the Caucasus and Moldova are in Ukraine
officially, and then they freely move across our territory. Just six
months have passed and we already have detained over 1,000 people from
the Caucasus, 400 per cent more than in all of 2003.

Yehorova The European community has given its new members huge
resources to fight illegal migration. The EU does not want to see them
on its territory and that means someone has to catch them, and then
hold them for a time, feed them and pay to deport them… ellipsis as
published Until 1 May, that was done by Poland, Slovakia, the Czech
Republic and Romania. Now it turns out Ukraine has to do all that
dirty work?

Karas After our neighbours joined the EU, Europe has demanded we take
all detained illegal migrants, who have passed through us, and
determine their fate ourselves. Yes, we do have a certain agreement
from 1993 on accepting persons who pass through a common state
border. The main idea of all these agreements is that we have
responsibility for those who pass across a common border with Ukraine,
and not circumventing us. Today they are trying to give us all the
illegals caught in Poland and especially in Slovakia. However, there
has to be some proof, we cannot accept them all. That would be such a
burden for the country! So we try every time to insist on joint
investigations, joint questioning and often prove – that one is not

Sometimes, illegals are held in our country for up to six months. It
takes time after all to determine who they are. Their documents are
often taken by those who are involved in smuggling them. Such
“channels” are operating from Beijing to Berlin. It is a trial
sometimes waiting to know what language the interpreter needs to know
to talk with them.

Yehorova According to the State Committee on Nationalities and
Migration, the EU spends 10 per cent from its budget to combat illegal
migration, while Ukraine spends 90. Of course, this is not a question
for you really, but you also spend in the same way, giving people a
roof for a time, feeding them from your stores. On average over 1,000
dollars is spent to deport one migrant. And the money does not always
come out of the migrant’s pocket… ellipsis as published

Karas Two years ago Ukraine opened the first shelter for people
detained by the border guards. It belongs to the Transcarpathian
Region. Of course, it is not enough, such places for keeping illegal
migrants need to be set up in other regions. Funds are needed for
deportation. This year for the first time, the state has set aside
funds for this. Europe has promised a lot and there is hope it may
keep its promise. Migrants making it to Ukraine are only using it as a
place to transit. Their goal is more developed countries – Germany,
France, Luxembourg, Great Britain… ellipsis as published The
European community should understand that.

>From barbed wire to modern technology

Yehorova Civilized Europe will understand, but a grandmother living
near the border does not understand what harm she does the state by
letting illegal migrants sleep in her barn. It costs 50 dollars per
person per night there. And that reasoning (almost two monthly pension
allowances!) is stronger for her. How do border troops work in light
of this, do they find a common tongue with the local population?

Karas Of course we look for one. And we punish in accordance with the
law. Over six months of the current year, 1,786 people were brought
to administrative responsibility, fines were levied to a total amount
of 121,044 hryvnyas.

It is not easy to make the local population our helpers, but it is
possible. People should understand that this is their state and that
it will care of them and then they will take care of the state.

Now we are cooperate on this with the special services of Ukraine, the
Interior Ministry and the western regional customs service. We share
information and carry out joint search activities. By the way, we are
creating civil formations of our helpers – that is that positive
experience which we need to return t o.

Yehorova And what about citizens who do not break the law – why should
they suffer? Everyone knows about the agreement between Poland and
Ukraine on how many cars should be let through a day. Customs and
border services carry out joint inspections to decrease the time in
crossing the border. And still there are queues on the border. Today,
after I made a cursory count, about 100 cars were lined up… ellipsis
as published

Karas The main reason for the queues on the Polish-Ukrainian border is
the un-rhythmic nature of our neighbours’ work. In my opinion, the
intensity of the work of border services on the Polish side should be
higher. In particular, they do not want to recognize a “green line”,
that is, a simplified system of crossing the border, explaining that
those involved in contraband often use “green lines”. According to our
data, it is the other way around. They almost never use those
lines. They go in normal order. By the way, we are not catching crows
here, in the past six months Ukrainian border service units together
with customs agents have detained goods worth more than 22.1m
hryvnyas. That is 240 per cent more than in the same period last year
2003 . Still, we would like the differences in the way Poland and we
look at simplified systems for crossing the border to be eliminated.

There is one more very serious problem – the number of existing
crossing points is not enough. And so three more are planned to be
built in the coming years: Budomyzh-Hrushev, Nyzhankovychy and
Boberka. In order to start construction on these crossing points, a
decision is needed by the cabinet and diplomatic notes exchanged by
the Foreign Ministry. Certain agreements from the Polish side already
exist. And so it is just a matter of time.

Yehorova Please tell us – are there sections of the border where
Ukraine is separated from other states by barbed wire?

Karas Yes, there still are. In far removed places, in the
mountains. Does that bother someone? In time, everything will fall
down on its own, we can’t buy new barbed wire after all. We are moving
towards modern methods. For example, we check the authenticity of
people’s documents and find counterfeits with light of various
wavelengths and magnification to 30 times. Tiny video cameras have
been installed to monitor places that are hard to reach, technical
equipment is in place to find people in remote spaces. Seventeen
international points have been equipped with automated border control
devices which help in investigating persons and transport vehicles. In
just minutes all needed information is sent from the administration of
the State Border Service to the border crossing point. You can quickly
uncover documents that are no good, people denied entry to Ukraine,
criminals being searched for. This year an subsystem was put into use
that can automatically read license plates of transport vehicles at
the Rava-Ruska and Krakovets border crossings and a subsystem for
video monitoring. In the future there are prospects for putting such
systems into place at all international crossing points by 2006.

Our borders have always been tight and now they must become completely
impossible for transgressors to violate. That is what the EU demands
and moreover, our professional and civil duty.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress