Date: On going
For nearly ten years Belgium has been working with locally recruited document experts to address the problem of visa applications submitted with fraudulent or falsified supporting documents. The first document expert was recruited to strengthen the Belgian visa team in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Belgium today represents 17 other Schengen Member States and has set up its first Schengen House. The effort of the document expert had a direct impact on the number of mala-fide applications and Belgium today works with local document experts in 6 other countries with a high risk of fraudulent visa applications.
Also other Schengen countries have invested a lot of effort to tackle document fraud in high risk countries and thus prevent irregular migration. Some Schengen countries decided to work with law firms while others deploy expatriate or local document experts. Both the law firm and individual experts carry out onsite investigations of documents submitted as a part of a Schengen visa application. Many Schengen countries also deploy visa experts to train consular staff and to strengthen the capacity of local authorities in areas related to document fraud and border control for passengers travelling to the EU.
Today, Schengen countries receive a large amount of information on Schengen visa abuse, document fraud and irregular migration from their consular posts as well as the national border police and the immigration office which is used to assess the risks and to launch risk mitigation initiatives in countries of origin.
While the Local Schengen Cooperation offers a platform for Member States to exchange information on visa trends and assess migratory and security risks, a structured operational cooperation to tackle visa abuse and avoid visa shopping is needed to further prevent irregular migration.
Belgium has therefore taken the initiative to establish a Consular Cooperation Mechanism on Schengen Visa Processing (CCM). The CCM allows Schengen Member States to share information and to pool resources. Joint mitigation measures leading towards a more harmonized anti-fraud approach, will, in the long run, allow for an even more efficient processing of bona fide visa applications.
Belgium in close collaboration with Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and The Netherlands will work on three levels to fight visa fraud under the CCM.
Firstly, joint assessments of risks and trends in visa abuse, document fraud and irregular migration will be carried out to ensure a joint response against Schengen visa abuse.
Furthermore, joint document verification officers will be employed to investigate the authenticity and reliability of documents submitted with Schengen-visa applications.
Thirdly, consular staff will be trained to correctly assess supporting documents emitted by third countries. They will also be trained to analyze trends in visa abuse, to efficiently detect false and forged identity and travel documents; and where relevant, to train third country authorities to reinforce the reliability official documents.
The European Commission’s Internal Security Fund will co-finance this action at a rate of 90%, the remaining 10% is covered from national resources of action partners in cash or in kind.