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European Commission launches training for Palestinian customs officers at Rafah

The European Commission today launched its first training programme for Palestinian customs officers at the Rafah crossing. The Palestinian customs department has identified 40 officers for this initial training programme. Training will be provided to 10 officers at any one time to ensure the full availability of other staff for normal work at the crossing. The courses will run until late June.

Speaking about the programme, Mr. John Kjaer, head of the European Commission Technical Assistance Office said: "It is vital for the Palestinian people and the economy that the Rafah border functions, as provided for under the Agreement on Movement and Access. Through this training programme, the European Union is helping to build the capacity of the customs staff to carry out their duties at Rafah."

The training is being led by a former senior member of the British customs service who worked extensively in Northern Ireland. It is being undertaken in close collaboration with the EU-BAM mission, which is providing facilities and staff time for the programme. The programme will help:

- Improve the professionalism and working practices of Palestinian customs officers

- Enforce uniform application of customs procedures for passengers at the Rafah crossing

- Provide a basis from which to move on to advanced training appropriate for a commercial crossing, as foreseen in the Agreement on Movement and Access

In the context of Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in August 2005, the European Union committed itself to assisting the PA in managing the Rafah crossing. The European Union Border Assistance Mission (EU-BAM) was deployed in November 2005 to monitor activities at the crossing and has continued its work since then, often in difficult circumstances.

In addition to this vital monitoring role, the Commission has provided €1.3 million worth of equipment to improve the working of the crossing, including X-ray machines, metal detectors, communications equipment, baggage equipment and vehicles. The Commission will also be improving the infrastructure of the crossing point to help it cope with its existing traffic, with work scheduled to commence on 16 May 2007. The Commission is continuing its assessment of additional needs at Rafah, in particular with regard to infrastructure, to enable the crossing to handle significant exports of goods. The export of goods at Rafah is already foreseen in the Agreement and Movement and Access although so far minimal goods have passed through. An advanced training module to develop all aspects of customs capacity at Rafah will, in the meantime, be developed for continuation beyond this initial training, building up the capacity for the PA to operate the RCP in full compliance with the Agreement on Movement and Access.

For further information contact:

Alix de Mauny, Press and Information Manager
Mob: 00 972 54 749 8678