• 23 November 2017

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “FIIAPP has been a solid and trustworthy travelling companion”

    Mariano Simancas, Chief Commissioner and Head of the International Cooperation Division with the National Police, tells us about the challenges, results and projects in this area that the force is working on, in collaboration with FIIAPP

    Guaranteeing security is one of the most important challenges at the international level. What are, in your opinion, the most relevant issues or areas for the Police to address in relation to international cooperation?

    Spain maintains its interest in fighting against all forms of terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration, as well as against related crimes: human trafficking, document forgery and money laundering. Although it is equally important to emphasise that we are part of the European Union and it is the European Police Agency (EUROPOL) which, after consulting the Member States, establishes the priorities through its reports: SOCTA and TE-SAT, the keys to establishing national policies.

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    In addition, the advance of jihadist terrorism has meant a substantial change in work dynamics in terms of international cooperation and the transformation of collaboration procedures.

     

    Where do you think there is a need for projects in which the police can participate?­ In which areas and in which countries?

    Following on from this, at present the police will be interested in participating in any cooperation project that fights against terrorism, illegal immigration, organised crime and related crimes. Right now the key region, where many of these phenomena occur, is Africa. Without forgetting what has already been undertaken in the Ibero-American region, where several successful projects have been carried out.

     

    What are the challenges for international police cooperation?

    The Treaty of Lisbon introduced an interesting perspective: the “integrated approach”, according to which the EU’s work and initiatives are no longer formulated in a closed, linear manner, they now involve different cross-cutting tasks and synergies between different actors.

     

    This approach requires that, in police or judicial matters, other perspectives such as social or educational perspectives be observed, which will consolidate the desired stability, but it also forces us to work jointly with different bodies.

     

    Can you highlight the results and impact of an international cooperation project on which you have worked?

    We are very satisfied with the participation of the National Police in many projects, which demonstrates its excellent collaboration with FIIAPP, but I would highlight the work of AMERIPOL. What initially started as an EU sponsored project to exchange data on drug trafficking, has continued growing with the support of different countries in Ibero-America, leading to the development of the Ameripol National Units, as well as the use of SIPA (Police Information Exchange System for AMERIPOL). We expect further development and growth similar to that of EUROPOL.

     

    The police is currently working on a wide range of challenges, such as those that affect the environment. What are your thoughts on the projects that deal with chemical and biological CBRN threats?

    The European Union is showing increasing interest in environmental crime: illicit trafficking, illegal logging, arson or illicit discharges. The eighth round of mutual evaluations has started within this European framework. It will assess the extent to which Community legislation and the measures taken by the different Member States are sufficient to deal with issues related to illegal trafficking, and it will also make appropriate recommendations.

     

    Another threat the police technicians are working to combat is drug trafficking and organised crime, what are the major advances that can be highlighted in this area thanks to international cooperation projects?

    The National Police has been working intensively for many years to combat criminal groups and organisations, which has provided us with an excellent understanding of their progress towards models specialising in financial engineering and with precise transactions on the internet using new technologies. Obviously these new circumstances influence the work the police undertakes, and they make it much more focused and specialised, so that is why we have been moving in this direction lately.

     

    The trafficking of arms and people are also global phenomena, what are the main challenges at the police level?

    The policing of both of these kinds of criminal activities has political support from the highest levels of the European Union and the Spanish Directorate General of the Police.

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    Arms trafficking has been tackled within the Criminal Policy Cycle as an Operational Action Plan, which will cover 2018 and 2019. Spain has led this initiative and achieved some spectacular results. One example is Operation PORTU, which took place earlier this year in the province of Biscay. It resulted in the seizure of more than eight thousand firearms ready for sale to terrorists and organised crime groups.

     

    In terms of human trafficking, the strategic objective is to minimise the damage caused by this social scourge. From the publicity campaigns, such as the one launched a few years ago “Con la trata no hay trato” (which roughly translates as zero tolerance for human trafficking), to the special focus on dismantling organisations involved in this phenomenon, in which the international cooperation component is key. I can state that it is one of the highest priorities for the police.

     

    The police has been working with FIIAPP for almost twenty years. How would you assess FIIAPP’s work in these areas, and the collaboration between both institutions around the world?

    I can only express how pleased I am with it. The collaboration between FIIAPP and the National Police has been efficiently managed for many years. This cooperation has resulted in the implementation of numerous projects: from twinnings with EU candidate countries to the management of Internal Security Fund programmes, or more recently the Trust Fund that allocates large amounts of money to projects linked to illegal immigration, mainly in Africa. In all these cases, FIIAPP has been a solid and reliable travelling companion.

     

    I am fully aware that the management of funds is not an easy task, and in this case, the Foundation gives us the necessary support to push forward with all the international cooperation initiatives that interest us. We hope to be able to count on this support in the years ahead, and to strengthen this relationship of mutual trust that allows us to make progress in the specialisation and improvement of the service that the National Police provides.

  • 09 May 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Europe day: Peace and Unity on the continent

    At FIIAPP we join the celebration of Europe Day under the motto of "United in Diversity"

    Why do we celebrate Europe Day on 9 May?

    In 1950, five years after the end of World War II, the countries of Europe still had not recovered from the consequences of the two world wars and feared the prospect of a third one. To avoid it, their governments reached the conclusion that the best option was to create an economic alliance around the main raw materials, coal and steel, which would make war improbable.
    One of the first people to state this position was Robert Schuman, the French minister of foreign affairs. In 1950, he gave a speech that laid the groundwork for this union, which would later be called the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community), the embryo of the current European Union. This speech given on 9 May 1950 is remembered as the Schuman Declaration, and it gave rise to the celebration of Europe Day.

     

    European values in the work of FIIAPP

    We at FIIAPP, as a foundation that manages European funds from the External Action Plan, join this celebration and embrace the motto of the European Union: “United in Diversity”.

     

    FIIAPP’s Director of Management Systems and Procedures, Agustín Fernandez, stresses the importance of these European values in the work of the foundation: “in the 100 plus countries where FIIAPP works, we do not impose the will of Europe, nor does Europe wish to impose its policies or values. Europe is liberty. Rather it is the partner countries that Europe works with who want to learn about these values and these policies that have enabled such diverse countries to live in peace and harmony and with great economic and social prosperity. One of the purposes of FIIAPP is to disseminate the best practices of these European policies through the projects it manages.”

     

    “Europe is diverse, it is large, it is different, and that enriches us. But it is also a Europe that shares a set of common values, and through FIIAPP and Spanish cooperation we encourage and work to defend these values that unite us and identify us as Europeans.

     

    Europe Day activities

    Over the course of the week, there is an extensive agenda of activities distributed by the member countries of the European Union and the different European institutions, with Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg being the key spots for these events. The different European institutions (European Parliament, European Commission, Court of Justice, Court of Auditors, etc.) celebrate open days in which citizens can visit the facilities and see how they operate first hand.

  • 23 December 2016

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    What are the European Union’s Twinning programmes?

    FIIAPP manages this type of EU-funded projects.

    The first Twinnings began in May, 1998, when the countries of Eastern Europe entered Europe to make them better prepared for the enlargement of the European Union.

     

    It is a specific type of project in which Spain occupies third place in the European Union in terms of the budget implemented, and fourth in projects won. Specifically, Spain implements 10% of the projects that circulate.

     

    To better understand their purpose and the types of projects that exist, we talked to Rafael Rodríguez-Ponga, National Contact Point for Twinnings at Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

     

    What are the European Union’s Twinning programmes?

    The Twinning programmes of the European Commission are institutional cooperation programmes that are funded by the European Commission from the EU external action budget.

     

    They represent a very particular type of funding. Specifically, they are from public administration to public administration. They must be implemented by and for agencies that are part of, or are themselves, public administrations, and they are managed by civil servants.

     

    They are also results-oriented, which means that the two parties, both the administration that wins the project and the beneficiary administration, commit to achieving a series of results in a contract signed in advance.

     

    Furthermore the defining feature of Twinnings is that the two parties, in addition to making a commitment, work together.

     

    How do they function?

    Well, a civil servant from the administration that wins the project relocates temporarily to the site of the other administration for one to two years, depending on the Twinning, and helps the civil servants there develop, work on and promote European Union legislation.

     

    What is the purpose of Twinnings?

    It´s cooperation between the different administrations. It’s to improve the administrative capacities of other beneficiary countries. It’s to bring these beneficiaries up to European standards so that they function increasingly better.

     

    And it’s to export our experience, our working methods and our fundamental values, such as democracy or human rights. It’s to bring these neighbours closer to the EU acquis. In all sectors, from the justice sector, which is generally the one with the most Twinnings, to finance, energy, structural funds, consumer protection, etc.

     

    Could you give us an example of a project FIIAPP is participating in?

    We have a Twinning in Algeria for setting up a Directorate-General of Traffic (DGT), as no organisation currently exists there to regulate this area. So we have sent a civil servant from Spain’s DGT to Algeria to help set up a DGT over the next two years, and to look at how to improve traffic and reduce traffic deaths in that country.

    Listen to our radio programme, Public Cooperation Around the World, on Radio 5 (RNE), about Twinnings here.

  • 23 September 2016

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    The Ombudsman’s Office as a participant in international cooperation on human rights

    Carmen Comas-Mata, director of the advisory board of the Ombudsman's Office, talks to us about the importance of cooperation.

    In my extensive experience in charge of international relations at the Ombudsman’s Office, which is also the national institution concerned with human rights under terms of the United Nations Organisation, I have been able to see the importance of cooperating in human rights first-hand, not just to merely ensure that the beneficiary countries achieve certain minimum standards of respect and protection for these rights but also to enhance the prestige of Spain abroad.

     

    People talk of “Brand Spain” to showcase to the world the successes achieved by our athletes and companies. But we shouldn’t leave it there: over the past 40 years, Spain has been an example of respect for human rights, and we can show the world how we had an exemplary transition from a dictatorship to a democracy, where we accepted a constitution that establishes the citizen as a subject of rights and established effective mechanisms for their protection. One of the main players in this transition was an extra-judicial institution, the Ombudsman’s Office, which is responsible for ensuring that public administrations respect these rights. Moreover, it is one of the institutions of this type with the most power in the world.

     

    Therefore, I feel especially proud of having been able to help enhance the image and prestige of my country by working in cooperation with human rights in countries of the former Soviet Union, like Kazakhstan and Armenia, and in other ones closer to us, like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and, most recently Turkey. Through EU Twinning projects, with the invaluable help of FIIAPP, we have helped to start or have strengthened other ombudsman institutions. The importance of sister institutions collaborating wholeheartedly in the same direction, improving action procedures, learning from one another, and thus being able to better serve citizens, the only reason for our existence, is something I understand to be unimpeachable and very positive.

     

    One of our priority objectives is, of course, Ibero-America. The expansive force of human rights has made everyone see the need to intensify collaboration with the ombudsmen in other countries, especially those in Ibero-America by holding meetings within a new organisation that took the name Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO). Its purpose was, and is, to lay the groundwork for fruitful international cooperation, particularly in countries that share a common culture and past. That cooperation is expressed and made concrete through the implementation of practical and effective programmes for training specialised personnel and promoting the establishment and solidity of the ombudsmen in all of the nations in the Ibero-American community.

     

    There is work being done in areas as important as immigration, human trafficking, youth, women and prisons. Precisely this field, that of cooperation in prison matters, and ultimately, the care of Spanish prisoners abroad, is one that can benefit most from Spanish cooperation. It is necessary to make our sister countries in America see that ensuring that sentences are served under humane conditions is as important as fighting crime. This is one of the most important duties we have today.

     

    We also work with countries in the Mediterranean region. The Arab Spring represented a threat to the incipient ombudsman institutions that were being created, but in some countries it is also turning out to be an opportunity to better adapt to international standards. Cooperation with these countries takes place through the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen, the purpose of which has always been to give strength and consistency to the ombudsman institutions of the Mediterranean basin, as a secure channel for affirming democracy in the area, as well as to initiate action consisting of international collaboration to cooperate within the framework of the good neighbour policy.

     

    The ombudsman is the friendly voice that listens to us, informs us and, if possible, helps us to improve our lives and solve our problems; and, above all, it is the last hope of dozens of people whom public authorities — culpably, intentionally or accidentally — have passed over them like bulldozers.

     

    Let’s not forget that we are all citizens, whether Spaniards or foreigners, and therefore strengthening our institutions here and there with cooperation projects means strengthening our system of freedoms.

     

  • 09 September 2016

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “Cooperation is such an enormous ocean that an individual contribution can seem insignificant”

    El día 8 de septiembre, se celebra el Día del Cooperante.

    The 8th of September is the International Volunteers Day.

    Thousands of professionals, through their work, are fighting against poverty, for sustainable development and a fairer world. Nearly three thousand of them, according to the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), are Spaniards.

    One of them is Santiago García-Noblejas, Chief Inspector of the National Police. He has worked on international cooperation projects with the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) since 2002 and, as he himself recognises, has been interested in the international sector for nearly his entire life.

    In this interview, he tells us about his experiences with FIIAPP and his experiences in the world of international cooperation.

    How many countries have you visited whilst working on FIIAPP projects?

    With FIIAPP projects, just three. I have implemented projects as a coordinator. At first, I was called a PAA, which means Pre-Accession Adviser, and later I was called an RTA, Resident Twinning Adviser. The two titles refer to the coordinator of Twinning projects in the field.

     

    In which countries?

    I started in Slovenia, from December 2002 to December 2003, with a very short but very nice project that turned out quite successfully. In fact, the results have lasted over time, as the bilateral relations with the country have continued. We could talk of the sustainability we hear so much about now.

    Later, from June 2004 to June 2005, I was in Lithuania with another short but very nice project.

    And lastly I was in Bulgaria, where the project had a larger scope, with a duration of two years, from June 2006 to June 2008.

    What were the objectives of each of your projects?

    In Slovenia and Lithuania, the projects were focused on the creation of international cooperation structures within the European Union, therefore within these two countries we worked on creating the future SIRENE (Supplementary Information Request and National Entry) office, which is a type of cooperation office that exists in each of the Schengen countries. The office works to streamline urgent police cooperation that is established in the Schengen space. Above all, we worked on the creation of the European Police (EUROPOL) office in Slovenia.

    In addition, the project helped, first, to make sure that the country complied with the European standards required at that time and, second, to provide training to the police officials who were going to be assigned to the EUROPOL national offices cooperating with the rest of the countries.

    In Bulgaria the project was much more technical, because it was really a matter of training the Bulgarian officials on the Schengen border control procedures. At the same time, the project helped with computerisation of the system that had been in use in the country up until then for screening people, the Schengen Information System (SIS).

    How did you get interested in this type of project and in institutional cooperation?

    The truth is that there is no one single motivation. In my particular case, I have had an international inclination since I was very young. I was a bit frustrated because my parents couldn’t afford trips abroad. When I was 15, 16 or 18, there was no Erasmus programme; there weren’t the possibilities that exist today.

    I’ve always had that itch, and I’ve always wanted to get out there, go beyond.

    And I achieved it thanks to my talent for languages and international public relations, and the fact that my family gave me its support and has always been willing to follow me on these adventures. I knew that by leaving my normal professional circle, I was going to enjoy a prestige that, at that time, wasn’t easy to attain…

    Santiago García-Noblejas con su equipo de trabajo en Lituania
    Santiago García-Noblejas with his work team in Lithuania

     

    How did your relationship with FIIAPP projects start?

    It was a bit of a coincidence. They had proposed that I work on another European Union project in a Caribbean country that later didn’t pan out. So, at that moment, the Directorate-General of the Police was starting to work on Twinning projects, and FIIAPP was there managing the budget and providing logistical support to the work of the experts participating in these projects. Since I wasn’t going to the Caribbean project, they offered me the one in Slovenia. I found it very exciting and I don’t think it took me even five seconds to say that my bags were packed and I was on board. Even in the first meeting that we had, FIIAPP was present.

    At that time, I didn’t know about FIIAPP; I knew Eva Suárez, who was the officer managing the project in Slovenia. She helped me tremendously because she was a great organizer and, for me, the face and the soul of the Foundation. Thanks to Eva, I became much closer to FIIAPP, the project with Slovenia turned out very well, I met tons of people at FIIAPP, and since then have had professional and personal relationships with many other workers.

    What would you like to highlight about all these experiences in international cooperation projects?

    I can’t put it into words, believe me. Personally, it has meant becoming a person with abilities, ideas and a level of development that I feel completely satisfied with. I credit a big part of my personality and my current happiness to having worked in the international cooperation.

    Because it’s given me the opportunity to learn about countries, cultures, people—some good, some bad, others fair—to summarise… cooperation has made me grow as a  person.

    What is clear is that I have a different perspective on problems and situations, to a great extent, I think, thanks to having been exposed to the influence of other cultural norms and ways of working. It’s very difficult to explain it. It would take a book to explain all of this.

    What is your assessment of international cooperation?

    The assessment is great; the thing is that it’s like a vast sea, where a small contribution from an individual can seem insignificant or of little value when taken on its own.

    However, these types of international cooperation relationships, what they do is open up many roads and facilitate many tasks that come later.

    And I’m going to give you an example: whilst I was at my last destination as an attaché of the Ministry of the Interior at the Spanish embassy in Romania, the European basketball championship was held in Slovenia; so I proposed to the Slovenian Minister of the Interior the idea of assisting the Spanish citizens, and those of other countries participating in the championship, who were going to come to see the matches. The idea was to establish a cooperation mechanism in which police from Spain and other countries would work with the Slovenian police to provide direct support to the security needs of the citizens arriving as tourists to watch the matches. We implemented it, and it was phenomenal to the point that the idea was used again at the European football finals in Bucharest and at the world basketball championship in France. For me, that’s an example of international cooperation. The citizens got an additional public service, paid for, moreover, by their taxes, outside of their country.

    Now you’re working on getting involved in a new FIIAPP-managed project in Myanmar. Where are you with that?

    Well, we’re working and negotiating. We’re going to have meetings with the beneficiaries, the Myanmar police, and with the European Union delegation to coordinate and clarify some issues that still aren’t nailed down.

    My hope and dream is to be able to start the project there and for people in Myanmar to learn about the Spanish.

    In this case, the project is very broad. Following the philosophy of the new democratic government now in power in the country, we are going to participate and assist in the comprehensive process of reforming the country’s administration.  In our case, we’re going to collaborate in the process of reforming the country’s police, by orienting it towards offering a public service. Because up until now, the police were directly linked to the army; it was a police force very focused on protecting the state but not on protecting citizens. It’s a question of establishing a series of democratic controls over the police and giving them training that is more oriented towards respect for human rights.

  • 22 July 2016

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    Fifty-thousand people asked the Ombudsman to take action in 2015

    El Defensor del Pueblo es el organismo encargado de defender los derechos fundamentales y las libertades públicas de los ciudadanos.

    Se trata de una institución independiente que, como tal, desempeña sus funciones con independencia e imparcialidad, con autonomía y según su criterio. Además, el Defensor del Pueblo ha colaborado con la FIIAPP en diferentes proyectos de cooperación internacional. El último sobre la puesta en marcha de la oficina del Defensor del Pueblo en Turquía.

    Soledad Becerril, the Ombudsman since 2012, was the first woman to hold the office in Spain.  In this interview, she tells us what the work of the Ombudsman’s Office consists of:

     

    Do all citizens have access to the Ombudsman’s Office?

    All citizens have access to the Ombudsman’s Office, on a non-discriminatory basis and, we hope, without any type of difficulty. Because, for submitting their complaints, they have toll-free numbers they can call, they can write to us directly by sending a letter, come into the Ombudsman’s Office physically to explain their problem and, of course they can also do so via Internet, using e-mail or through our website.

     

    What types of complaints does the Ombudsman handle?

    Complaints about public administrations. The Ombudsman does not handle complaints between private citizens or private institutions or businesses.

    We also act through the corresponding ministry in the case of large companies that provide public services, such as telephony or transport, or, for example, matters related to banks, through the Bank of Spain. But we handle all types of situations and problems. In relation to disabled people, problems with local taxes, matters involving the national tax agency, waiting lists in hospitals, etc. In short, all types of problems and circumstances.

     

    Are all of the complaints in Spain brought before the Ombudsman handled in Madrid, or are there also branch offices in the self-governing communities?

    We cover the entire Spanish territory. There are also Ombudsman’s Offices in ten self-governing communities which have the capacity to act within the jurisdiction of the particular community.

     

    How many complaints are received each year by the Ombudsman’s Office?

    Around 20,000. And, a great number of them are submitted by individuals. Although groups, associations and institutions can also contact us.

    In 2015, in the annual report we present every year to parliament, we realised that 50,000 people had submitted documents requesting action from the Ombudsman.

     

    Are there priority issues for the Ombudsman’s Office?

    We don’t have priority issues. What we do is to try to identify situations that are more urgent than others. For example, if there is a person in an irregular administrative situation who is about to be deported and we are aware that there are also circumstances of vulnerability involved, very unique or very special ones, we act rapidly before the person is deported.

    If we are aware that a minor’s situation is very dramatic or very difficult, these situations are handled before other ones, but all issues are addressed.

     

    What are the main challenges facing the Ombudsman’s Office?

    The greatest challenge is to reach the greatest possible number of people and to ensure that the greatest number of people with a problem know how to contact the Ombudsman and can do so. That’s why the website is so important. To make us visible and make the population understand what we do, to be appreciated. This is fundamental, having the trust of citizens.

     

    Defensor del pueblo_Madrid
    Ombudsman´s office in Madrid

     

    What are the greatest difficulties?

    The same difficulties that all administrations, local governments, regional community governments or the national government have; budgetary problems related to getting more money allocated to assistance, social or health services.

     

    What is the role of the Ombudsman in other countries?

    Most countries in the European Union have ombudsman’s offices, as well as Ibero-American and some Mediterranean countries. We have helped them and assisted in training the teams working in these ombudsman’s offices.

    Most recently we were in Turkey for two years (through a project managed by FIIAPP and financed by the European Commission). We showed them how we work in Spain and collaborated in training the staff there. In addition, we have an ongoing relationship of collaboration with the Ibero-American ombudsman’s offices, which follow the Spanish model.

     

     What has the Spanish Ombudsman’s Office contributed in Turkey?

    We provided part of the necessary training to its teams: how to handle matters, which areas they can take action in, how action can be taken, how to contact administrations, monitoring of legislation in force, respect for human rights… in sum, all of these fields.

     

    How are Turkish citizens benefiting from this project?

    Turkey is a very large country, with 80 million inhabitants; extending the action of the Ombudsman throughout the entire geography and to all Turkish citizens is going to take some time and a great deal of effort. But I hope that little by little they achieve it.

     

    Are there plans to work on more projects in other countries?

    If other projects come up, yes. We’ll do it based on requests for our help.

     

    What is the role of the Ombudsman in refugee issues?

    This is a very complicated issue because the procedures are quite convoluted, but the position of the Ombudsman is to carry out monitoring to ensure that Spain fulfils its commitments in this area. From the Ombudsman’s Office we speak out in favour of receiving, welcoming and integrating the people arriving in our country.