Effective border security is key to the effective implementation of counter-terrorism measures pursuant to Security Council resolution 1373 (2001). It is the first line of defence against the movement of terrorists across borders and the illegal cross-border movement of goods and cargo.
Maintaining secure maritime, land and air borders is extremely challenging for many Member States. Land borders, for example, can be tremendously lengthy and porous, and difficult to monitor. Other challenges derive from the lack of financial and human resources, equipment and specialist skills, or the lack of intra-State and inter-State cooperation.
The threat stemming from foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) has increased the pressure on Member States and the international community to strengthen border security and prevent FTF travel. Following the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2178 (2014), aimed at stemming the flow of FTFs, the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate (CTED) have been engaged in analysing States’ counter-terrorism capacities, including in relation to border security. A preliminary analysis conducted by CTED at the end of 2014 (S/2014/807) revealed major gaps in many States’ implementation of the border-security requirements of resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005). This in turn presents additional obstacles to the effective implementation of resolution 2178 (2014).
A more recent analysis (S/2015/683) established that many States had taken steps to strengthen border security and prevent FTF travel. Those steps include passport confiscation, the introduction of a requirement for transit visas, and more effective use of the databases of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to screen for potential FTFs. Some States, for example, have connected their immigration-screening processes at the frontline to the INTERPOL database on stolen and lost travel documents, and more States are populating the INTERPOL list of FTFs.
Another important tool in enhancing border security is advance passenger information (API). In its simplest form, API is an electronic communications system that collects biographical passenger data and basic flight details from airline carriers and transmits the data to border-security authorities in the destination country prior to the flight’s arrival. This gives border-security authorities additional time to perform sufficient checks of all in-bound passengers against relevant sanctions and watch lists while minimizing delays in the processing of inbound passengers.
Security Council resolution 2178 (2014) calls on Member States to require that airlines operating in their territories provide API in order to detect the departure from their territories, or attempted entry into or transit through their territories, of individuals designated by the Committee established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011).
However, only some States currently require airlines to do so. At present, 51 States – or slightly more than a quarter of the United Nations membership – have implemented API systems. Of those 51 States, only 12 have interactive API (iAPI), which facilitates passenger risk assessments in near real-time and alerts border-security agencies and airline carriers to the potential presence of an FTF before they can board a flight. There is therefore an urgent need to strengthen the sharing of information by airlines and Governments through the use of API systems that enable States to detect the arrival or departure of FTFs. Compliance with existing international standards, supplemented by passenger name records (PNR), would assist in the detection of FTFs attempting to cross borders by air.
Further ways to prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups include strengthening control of the issuance of identity papers and travel documents and the introduction of measures to prevent counterfeiting, forgery, or fraudulent use of identity papers and travel documents. However, many States lack clear policies and measures to ensure the security and integrity of the identity and travel-document issuance process, and many have not yet put in place security measures at airports and other border crossings designed to ensure the effective screening of travellers.
Spaces between official border crossings are difficult to control because they are often lengthy and consist of open spaces or difficult terrain. They therefore present risks and vulnerabilities for potential crossing by terrorists. The lack of equipment and professionally trained border-security personnel also continues to increase States’ vulnerabilities.
Coordinated border management (CBM) strategies, which require close coordination among the competent authorities at border locations, have proven to be a highly effective tool for efficiently and effectively managing national borders. CBM strategies provide for coordination of policies, programmes, and delivery among cross-border regulatory agencies with the aim of strengthening the management of trade and travel flows, while also addressing security concerns. At a special meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), held in Madrid in 2015, the participants drafted the Guiding Principles on Foreign Terrorist Fighters, which call on States to consider incorporating CBM principles in order to enhance the effectiveness of border security aimed at stemming the flow of FTFs.
Ensuring effective border security is an integral part of any comprehensive and integrated national counter-terrorism strategy and requires collective action by States and relevant international and regional organizations. The CTC and its Executive Directorate (CTED) can assist States to identify and share good practices in this area and facilitate the delivery of technical assistance and financial support to ensure implementation of the relevant Council resolutions and the Committee’s related recommendations.