Border Police activity report: 60 pct plunge in cross-border traveler numbers in 2020

Romania's border traffic plunged almost 60 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year, as approximately 28.5 million people moved in or out of the country. "Traffic values at the border checkpoints stood at about 28.5 million people (23.8 million EU citizens and 4.7 million non-EU citizens), both on the inbound and on the outbound. Compared to 69.7 million in 2019, this marks a decrease of 59 percent," shows the Romanian Border Police 2020 activity report presented on Tuesday at the headquarters of the Border Police General Inspectorate (IGPF), in the presence of Minister of the Interior Lucian Bode. IGPF head, police chief quaestor Liviu Bute, presented the main activities carried out in 2020, expressing appreciation for the border police officers' dedication in this special year. Starting with the nationwide instatement of the state of emergency in March 2020 as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, border traffic slumped progressively, hitting a minimum in April. About 10.3 million (42 percent) less means of transport were registered at the border crossing checkpoints compared to 2019 (17.8 million means of transport). However, the number of freight box trucks that crossed the state border remained similar to 2019, when approximately 4.4 million vehicles crossed the border in both directions, shows the IGPF report. As many as 16,533 illegal acts were found in 2020, of which 8,134 infractions and 8,399 contraventions. Most of the misdeeds discovered were illegal border crossing attempts (2,781 acts), followed by forgery and use of forgery (1,081 acts) and economic-financial crimes, including smuggling of goods (788 deeds). Most criminal acts detected last year were at the border with Hungary, accounting for 23 percent of all border crimes. Most contravention sanctions were applied at the border with the Republic of Moldova, 33 percent of the total number. "As many as 12,684 foreign citizens were denied entry to Romania due to non-compliance with the legal requirements, by 63 percent more compared to the previous year. The main reasons for entry denial were: absence of the necessary documentation to justify the purpose and conditions of stay, lack of a valid visa or a valid residence permit, as well as on the grounds of public health," the report states. More than 77,800 Schengen or national alerts were detected at the border control, and approximately 380 persons - Romanian and foreign citizens - wanted on all-points bulletins were handed over to the competent authorities. Border police found last year 10,586 foreign nationals attempting to illegally cross the border, of whom 6,658 on the way into the country and 3,928 on the way out, most of them organized into groups of migrants, with the support of traffickers. As many as 1,426 groups of migrants were detected, as well as 363 Romanian and foreign citizens who supported illegal border crossing attempts. "8,874 migrants were found illegally operating at the green border, 1,491 tried to cross the border illegally hidden in various means of transport, and 221 people were found trying to illegally cross the border by other methods (fake travel documents and visas, false identity, avoidance of border control)," shows the IGPF report. A number of 3,641 people requested the grant of asylum seeker status from the border police structures and were handed over to the General Inspectorate for Immigration for the necessary legal measures. Steps were also taken last year to secure vulnerable border areas and increase the response capacity; action was taken in collaboration with the Serbian border authorities to prevent the illegal passage of migrants from the neighboring country. The number of people detected while trying to cross the border illegally was 184 percent higher in 2020 vs. 2019. Border police also identified 56 economic-financial crimes and 732 smuggling and customs fraud attempts; confiscated goods amounted to 170 million lei. Approximately 234 people were found crossing or attempting to illegally cross the border with smuggle goods. Police seized 4.2 million packs of cigarettes worth approximately 51.7 million lei, over 13,000 kg of tobacco, 205 kg of hookah tobacco and identified and dismantled seven cigarette smuggling rings involving 36 people. As regards vehicles suspected of being stolen, border police discovered last year 172 vehicles flagged as wanted by the authorities or suspected of being stolen (137 cars, 19 minibuses, 2 motorcycles, 11 freight box trucks and 3 trailers); 189 crimes were detected. According to the IGPF, 249 criminal acts related to intellectual property rights were also detected, as border police tracked, independently or in cooperation with customs workers, counterfeit goods bearing the insignia of protected international trademarks. "As regards the trafficking of banned substances, 109 crimes were found, with seizures including 52 kg of heroin, 30 kg of cocaine, 1.3 kg of cannabis, 2 kg of narcotics and other substances," IGPF reports. AGERPRES (RO - author: Daniel Alexandru Florea, editor: Claudia Stanescu; EN - author: Simona Klodnischi, editor: Simona Iacob)

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