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Passport initiative boosts border security

Passport initiative boosts border security

A major initiative to strengthen border security and enhance the integrity of New Zealand passports has been unveiled by Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker, Immigration Minister David Cunliffe and United States Ambassador William P McCormick.

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A major initiative to strengthen border security and enhance the integrity of New Zealand passports has been unveiled by Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker, Immigration Minister David Cunliffe and United States Ambassador William P McCormick.

New Zealand is joining the Regional Management Alert List (RMAL) pilot scheme for passport checking initiated by the United States and Australia.

The initiative was launched at a function at the US Embassy in Wellington today.

It allows participating countries to detect the use of invalid travel documents either at airport check-in counters before passengers board flights, or before their arrival in the destination country.

Mr Barker said RMAL provided a significant security boost for New Zealanders. "It again underlines the value and integrity of the New Zealand passport by reducing the likelihood of someone misusing a lost or stolen passport for criminal purposes."

RMAL followed other initiatives to enhance passport security, including Advance Passenger Processing, the introduction of e-Passports with leading edge security features, stricter issuing processes and much bigger penalties for passport crime, Mr Barker said.

Mr Cunliffe said the checking of passengers would contribute to more effective border security. Screening passports when passengers checked in ensured a higher level of assurance that only people using authorised documents were entering New Zealand.

"We have been able to detect the attempted use of lost or stolen Australian travel documents for some time. When we join the RMAL system on 31 March, we will be able to do this for United States travel documents as well."

Ambassador McCormick said the United States was delighted New Zealand was joining the RMAL program.

"This will be an important step in our joint efforts to secure our borders against terrorism and transnational crime. The addition of New Zealand to the pilot program will also expand the RMAL from a bilateral to a multi-lateral framework and lay the groundwork for other APEC members to join in the future," Mr McCormick said.

ENDS

Factsheet on RMAL

What RMAL is

· RMAL stands for Regional Movement Alert List. It's a system that allows participating countries to detect lost, stolen or invalid travel documents that travellers are attempting to use.

How it started

· Australia and the United States agreed to participate in this project and began operating the pilot RMAL system in September 2005.

· New Zealand participation in the pilot system was announced at an APEC meeting in February.

· Since 2003, New Zealand and Australia already have a bilateral system called Advanced Passenger Processing (APP) that allows both countries to detect lost, stolen or invalid travel documents of individuals travelling on NZ and Australian documents. As a result of APP, in 2004/2005, 660 people were prevented from boarding flights to NZ.

· The pilot RMAL scheme may be expanded in future and other APEC member countries may join.

How it works

· It allows countries with advanced passenger processing (APP) systems to have access to information made available by other participating countries on a `real time' basis during pre-boarding checks on passengers. Australia and New Zealand have APP systems.

· It allows countries with `in-flight' pre-screening systems to have access to information made available by other countries as part of that screening process. The United States have such a system (known as API system).

· Under the pilot RMAL system, if someone checks in for a NZ-bound flight with US travel documents, there will be an automatic pre-arrival check done against the current US records of lost, stolen or otherwise invalid documents.

· It also means the travel documents of New Zealanders travelling to the US will be checked as part of the in-flight United States API check of incoming passengers. This means it's important for New Zealanders not to travel with documents they have previously reported as lost or stolen.

· Initial RMAL checks are limited to verifying the serial numbers and expiry dates of travel documents presented by incoming passengers against lists of stolen and otherwise invalid travel documents supplied by participating countries. This will be done without any exchange of biographical information such as names or dates of birth.

· Dealing with cases where a travel document has been reported lost or stolen or is otherwise invalid may require further investigation and information transfer between officials of the two countries concerned.

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