"It is not an option to tell EU border guard "l want to visit my friend in Warsaw" and hope that this will end the dialogue"

Author : News Agency

Respondent : Oleh Slobodyan

Speaker of the State Border Service of Ukraine Oleh Slobodyan shares his view on our readiness for visa-free travel, explains what to expect at the border with EU and what will happen to violators of migration legislation
22:37, 22 May 2017

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112 Agency

The visa-free regime with the EU will enter into force very soon. Ukrainians massively started to submit documents for biometric passports, look for air tickets to Europe and prepare to travel by car. We asked the speaker of the State Border Service of Ukraine Oleh Slobodyan - are border guards ready for visa-free travel, what to expect at the border with EU and what will happen to violators of migration legislation?

- On May 17, the Agreement on the visa-free regime between the EU and Ukraine was signed. After that, the decision will be published in the Official Journal of the EU, and in 20 days it will come into force. It is expected that this will happen on June 11. Is the State Border Guard Service prepared to work within the framework of a visa-free regime or preparations are only in the start? What is provided for the future work regarding this issue?

- This process began for us exactly when it began for the whole Ukraine, when the plan for the liberalization of the visa regime was signed. The State Border Service in connection with this had several, let's say, weighty items in terms of the entire plan. First of all, we had to equip all our checkpoints with technique for biometric control. And the second (as regards our integration into the European security field) is to connect checkpoints to the Interpol databases. These are the main tasks that lie at the fundamental level of understanding the situation. We fulfilled them, and fulfilled them in a timely and qualitative manner. This was confirmed by all EU commissions, who came to check the readiness of Ukraine.

At this stage, we have all 157 major checkpoints technically equipped for biometric control. All the necessary equipment is on both the first and second lines of border control. And 127 border-crossing points are connected to Interpol databases. This number is smaller, because at some railway stations this is not necessary.

There were also issues on improving cooperation, on the exchange of information, that is, all this is a component of our integration into the European legal field.

- Border guards, who stand at the checkpoints, undergo additional training? They are guided, who can pass, what else to require from people besides the biometric passports?

- Visa-free travel concerns changes in the rules of entry to a particular country of the European Union. As for leaving, the order of departure from Ukraine will not change. We will check the passports and other documents or departure, as always. Almost nothing will change in our work. Perhaps there will be more biometric passports, perhaps more citizens who wish to cross the border.

I would like to draw the citizens' attention to this. For example, we see a family with a child: parents have biometric passports, and child has a travel document. For us, this will be the reason let this family leave the country. But they will not be able to enter the EU countries with their child. Parents can be told: you can enter, and children do not have such a right. For this you need to have a biometric passport for your child.

- Can you give us recommendations regarding documents person should have to use the visa-free entry right?

- By and large, Ukrainian citizens do not need additional documents. But we understand that any country at the entrance somehow enhances the measures of control and filtration of visitors. Therefore, there is a very high probability, especially for citizens who travel to the EU for the first time, that border guards on the EU border can stop them, communicate with them and clarify the purpose of the visit. Clarify whether they have a booked hotel, tickets for their way home. If they go to visit relatives, then where do these relatives live, can visitors contact them and have sufficient financial support. The legislation of each country establishes a minimum level of financial security for foreigners to stay in it. In the EU countries this is an average of 50 to 80 euros per day per person.

- And how much cash can visitors take to the foreign country?

- Up to 10 thousand euros, if I'm not mistaken. These are questions that you need to be prepared to give answers. This is not an option to tell the border guard of the European country "yes, l want to visit my friend in Warsaw" and hope that this will end the dialogue. It will be necessary to say where this friend lives, what his name is.

- Period of stay in foreign country is limited to 90 days. What threatens a person who will stay there over this period?

- As people say, everyone is an architect of his own happiness. A person who has violated the migration legislation of the EU countries should be aware that next time most likely he will not be able to cross the border, and this opportunity will be closed to him for a long, long time.

- Law enforcers will take away his biometric passport?

- No one will do this. But person should understand that European country can add him into its law enforcement base or, in general, if the offense is more serious, into the same Interpol database. And all the countries on the EU border will see that this citizen had problems with the law, accordingly he has no right to enter the territory of the EU.

- And can Ukrainian law enforcers use such measures against some visitors?

- If, say, a person has overstayed his period of visit, this is the basis for the law enforcement bodies of the country to apply administrative measures. A man returns to his homeland, and he does not have any conflicts with our law enforcement system. He comes, lives, and from our side there can be no claims. But when he again wants to visit Ukraine next time, they can tell him: you are in the field of view of law enforcement officers, you have violated the law and you cannot enter our territory.

- Mechanism of suspension of visa regime. In which cases can it be used against Ukraine?

- I'm not familiar with this mechanism. But what I heard, what I know, is that if we start to flood the EU countries with illegal immigrants from Ukraine, then this can serve as the basis to stop such process.

- And if, for example, our people will riot, or the Russian special services will use their agent and he'll harm other people somehow?

- If someone enters EU and makes an offence, he will respond in accordance with the laws of the country where he violated the law. This is not Ukraine which violate the rules of the road, park the car in the wrong place. It's not Ukraine that did something wrong, but a specific citizen, with a specific name committed an offense. And he will be responsible for his actions both in Ukraine and in the territory of another state.

We are a very peaceful nation. In Portugal, one high-ranking official said to me that at one time the Ukrainians raised the economy of Portugal and that Ukrainians are the only ones to whom rich Portuguese can leave the keys to the house, to the apartment and go for a couple of months without worrying that something will disappear or there will be a mess . And such an attitude towards us we see in most of the EU countries.

- That is, there will be no collective responsibility?

- Of course not.

- Only in case when the percentage of non-returners is high, they can suspend the visa-free regime?

- As far as I know from the experience of Georgia, their economic situation is also far from perfect, but the percentage of non-returns is critically small.

- And what about people from the occupied Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions? If they have a biometric passport, they will not be subjected to additional control measures?

- The situation is very simple. As for issuing biometric passports, this is a matter of the migration service. As for the departure of citizens abroad, the biometric passports indicate only the region of issue, not the place of registration. And if the passport is valid, it has no signs of forgery, then we have no reason to prevent those people left Ukraine. They will travel abroad, there will be no problems.

- And when it became clear that Ukraine will get visa-free regime, did you observe the crowds at the checkpoints in separate parts of Donetsk and Luhansk region, or on the administrative border with Crimea?

- The situation on the line of demarcation and on the administrative border is different. Before the May holidays, we saw the quite significant increase of traffic on the line of demarcation, but at the same time we have a significant decrease in traffic on Crimean direction. I would not associate an increase or decrease with the prospect of visa-free travel. These are seasonal processes. In Crimean region, for example, every year we see a decline in the number of people and vehicles in both directions. On the line of demarcation, on the contrary, we observe an increase of traffic every year. I repeat, this has nothing to do with visa-free travel.

- How do you explain the increase in traffic on the line of demarcation?

- In my opinion, there is only one explanation: the economic situation there is deteriorating and more people are going to the territory controlled by Ukrainian authorities to buy food or get a job.

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