Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attends a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers (ASEAN) in Clark, Philippines on Oct. 24, 2017. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

ASEAN Region May Get Schengen-Style Single-Visa Policy

With a growing population of over 600 million, and economic growth across the ASEAN region placing increasing challenges on travel and security, regional human mobility was the focus of a meeting held in August within the framework of the European Union’s (EU) collaboration with ASEAN on migration and border management.

Implemented across Southeast Asia by INTERPOL, the EU-ASEAN Migration and Border Management Program II seeks to improve regional border security by tackling transnational crimes such as people smuggling and human trafficking. The 10 ASEAN member states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

At the meeting, representatives from ASEAN member states, law enforcement, industry, academia, the EU, the Habibie Center in Jakarta, and INTERPOL reviewed a feasibility study on an ASEAN common visa and practical recommendations on mobility and border security. The study is the product of a year-long research undertaken by the Habibie Center to support ASEAN in its integration process through the implementation of the region’s Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

Ibrahim Almuttaqi, head of the ASEAN Studies Program at the Habibie Center, said an ASEAN common visa can serve as a steppingstone to promote greater trust, cooperation, and coordination amongst border management agencies across the region.

The European Union has been implementing a single-visa policy under the Schengen Agreement for the past 20 years. Like any security policy it is not 100 percent perfect, but it has allowed member countries to pool resources and share data more comprehensively than using separate or conflicting security arrangements for each individual country. The comprehensive feasibility study “Towards an ASEAN Common Visa,” conducted by the Habibie Center, provides analysis and credible options for policy-makers to consider for the region.

The EU-ASEAN Migration and Border Management Program II has already enabled technical and operation expansion of secure communications systems to 26 major transport hubs in the region, provided training in specialized areas such as human trafficking, and co-ordinated border screening operations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to prevent the movement of criminals and terror suspects across Southeast Asia.

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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