Project Relay

Tackling migrant smuggling in South and Southeast Asia through training and enhanced border security

Project Relay assists member countries in South and Southeast Asia to tackle the growing challenges posed by migrant smuggling in these regions through capacity building and enhancing border security.

It is an INTERPOL initiative, funded by the Government of Canada, and involves Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The project boosts the capability of the beneficiary countries to decrease irregular migration by:

  • Identifying key migrant smuggling and illegal migration trends;
  • Increasing awareness and use of INTERPOL’s policing capabilities, such as our criminal databases, to facilitate information exchange;
  • Equipping participants with knowledge and skills in the fields of international police cooperation, border management and anti-migrant smuggling;
  • Providing technology to strengthen operational capabilities, particularly at key border points.

Project Relay was conducted in three phases:

  • Needs assessment/intelligence gathering and analysis – to determine the challenges and assistance required;
  • Specialized training courses – targeting the areas defined during the previous phase;
  • Equipment deployment - combined with expansion of our I-24/7 communications system – followed by a border management operation to put the new skills into practice in the field.
Multi-agency coordination for Operation Mandala with Bangladesh Police, Airport Armed Batallion and Immigration Special Branch
Multi-agency coordination for Operation Mandala with Bangladesh Police, Airport Armed Batallion and Immigration Special Branch
Trainer Mozammel Hussein giving a briefing on Operation Mandala at the counters in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Trainer Mozammel Hussein giving a briefing on Operation Mandala at the counters in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Immigration Police scanning with MIND Devices at Shahjalal International Airport
Immigration Police scanning with MIND Devices at Shahjalal International Airport
Operation Mandala in Dhaka, Bangladesh with Project RELAY trainer
Operation Mandala in Dhaka, Bangladesh with Project RELAY trainer
Immigration Training, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Immigration Training, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Operation Mandala - Operations Coordination Unit at IGCI
Operation Mandala - Operations Coordination Unit at IGCI
Operation Mandala at Paro Airport
Operation Mandala at Paro Airport
Identity checks at Paro Airport
Identity checks at Paro Airport
/

Analysis

To better understand the existing capabilities and knowledge gaps in the participating countries, a needs assessment and related criminal analysis were conducted.

We also worked with the countries involved to gather intelligence on current and emerging migrant smuggling threats, modus operandi of the criminal networks involved and links to other related crimes such as human trafficking. To this end, a dedicated intelligence gathering workshop was held in Sri Lanka in September 2017.

At the end of this phase, a criminal analysis report was generated which highlights the key migrant smuggling and illegal migration trends, to advance understanding of these critical issues among police, immigration, customs and border control agencies.

Training and equipment

After defining the scope of migrant smuggling in the regions and the areas of assistance required by the countries, specialized training courses were conducted to develop the necessary skills. Topics included the use of our expertise and databases, anti-migrant smuggling best practices, international police cooperation and border management techniques.

A ‘train-the-trainer’ component ensured that participants can in turn teach other colleagues in their home countries.   

The first training event was held in November 2017 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It brought together 46 participants from police, investigation, customs, immigration, INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs) and frontline border units.

To ensure that the participating countries have optimum access to our services, technical equipment was installed at strategic border points to provide access to our I-24/7 secure global police communications system.  

Operation Mandala

The project culminated with a border security operation conducted at five international airports and one land border point in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Using the skills developed during the training sessions, officers screened nearly 500,000 individuals against INTERPOL’s nominal and Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) databases.

This resulted in multiple positive ‘hits’, including individuals subject to INTERPOL Red and Blue Notices and several travel documents registered in the SLTD database.

Among the hits were two individuals suspected of involvement in human trafficking and people smuggling activities in the region, and a Sri Lankan national who was the subject of a Red Notice from the UAE for misappropriation of funds.

Read more about Operation Mandala