Chain computerization in the immigration chain

By Wilbert Enserink

Those who enter our country as aliens or are found to be illegal immigrants go through step-by-step processes that may lead to them being granted a residence permit or visa or being deported from the country. This involves a chain of different organizations: the so-called aliens chain. The Direction Regie Vreemdelingenketen, part of the Ministry of Security and Justice, promotes cooperation between all chain partners.

Een Highberg klantverhaal: Keteninformatisering in de vreemdelingenketen

"The Aliens Chain is the interplay of organizations that work together to implement the Aliens Act," said Kees Keuzenkamp, deputy director of Aliens Chain Direction at the Ministry of Security and Justice. "This rule of law applies to everyone who is not a European and enters or wants to enter Europe. People who come here to study, knowledge workers, au pairs, temporary workers, asylum seekers. The immigration chain is responsible for the entry of these people, their stay and their return."

The question is how to ensure that such a chain works closely together.

Rolodex of information

The organizations that make up the immigration chain include the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Repatriation and Departure Service and the National Police. "The question is how do you ensure that such a chain works closely together," says Keuzenkamp, who is responsible for organizing the information exchange between the parties that together implement immigration policy and for the joint facilities to support this exchange.  

According to Keuzenkamp, practice shows that a chain takes steps forward in cooperation especially when there is a common problem. "When the Balkans exploded in the late 1990s, the flow of refugees was enormous: there were more than 80,000 foreigners in shelters versus 40,000 foreigners now. There was no such thing as a joint aliens administration at the time. Whereupon the chain decided: there must be a kind of "rolodex" in which we can find every foreigner. That was the basis for the system used since 2003: the BasisVoorziening Vreemdelingen."  

Dolmatov affair

A number of identity data, biometric characteristics and status data have since been exchanged digitally through the BasisVoorziening Vreemdelingen. The goal: to speed up procedures and increase the quality of decisions. Keuzenkamp: "In 2011, chain computerization was given a new impetus by the Rutte I parliamentary support agreement, which contained measures to strengthen immigration policy, such as better information exchange. The Dolmatov affair* underscored the need for this: it made it clear that information might be available within the immigration chain, but not always to the right party at the right time."  

The desire of the immigration chain was for employees to have digital access to information relevant to their work, even if it had to come from systems of other parties in the immigration chain.  

The gedoogoord formed the basis for the Keteninformatisering program in which seven organizations are working together to digitize their mutual information exchange. "The desire of the immigration chain was for employees to have digital access to information relevant to their work, even if it had to come from the systems of other parties in the immigration chain," Keuzenkamp explains. "Without printer, scanner or retyping, which would significantly reduce the chance of possible errors, which can still sneak in in a manual process."  

Trabant 2.0

From the beginning, as part of the Chain Computerization program, Highberg has been involved in improving information exchange and the use of chain-wide control and accountability information in the immigration chain. To this end, together with internal specialists from the Ministry of Security and Justice, they developed a chain-wide information system (KMI+) and a corresponding chain-wide data dictionary (GVKonline) that led to improved cooperation and steering in the immigration chain.

Keuzenkamp: "Data from all chain parties are now automatically gathered periodically and then processed into joint management information. That saves errors, time and workload. You can compare the old system with excel sheets exchanged by e-mail to a Trabant, while we have now set up something that has the potential of a Ferrari. We are now using it at the level of a Volvo, but there are still so many possibilities in it that we need to train our people further. Highberg supports that with a training program."

*Russian asylum seeker Aleksandr Dolmatov came to the Netherlands, ended up in immigration detention after his asylum application was rejected, and hanged himself in his cell. The Security and Justice Inspectorate reported in a report into Dolmatov's treatment that the government had piled mistake upon mistake. He should not have been detained, agencies did not know about each other what they were doing, and nurses were not doing their jobs properly.

If you would like to know more, please contact Wilbert Enserink.