Prometheus is a project implemented by the French Ministry of Interior with the support of CIVIPOL that aims to strengthen the functioning of the visa-free regime between the EU and Georgia. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to highlight the personal experience of one of its beneficiaries, Mr. Luka Paatashivili who writes below:
I am glad to be able to share my operational deployment experience in Marseille, France, as part of the Prometheus Project. I have been working in various departments of the Georgian police force: firstly as an officer for the Security Police, in particular at Tbilisi International Airport; secondly, for the Criminal Police; and for the past two years for the Patrol Police Department at the Border of Tbilisi International Airport. I outline this because my deployment in France, within the framework of the Prometheus Project, has been the most important professional training and period for me during my time in the police force.
When I met the Prometheus Project team in Tbilisi during language training with two members of the team, I still could not imagine how important the job I was preparing for would become. I left for Marseille on 02 February 2020 and slowly everything became clear. Upon arrival, my French colleagues met me so enthusiastically that I instantly realised it would be a pleasure to work with them. I had left my pregnant wife in Tbilisi and arrived in a foreign environment, which was not easy. The day after my arrival, I went to work straight away. There I quickly got to know the whole team, became acquainted with the work principles and requirements of my Liaison Officer role, and received assignments.
My mission was to work on flights from Georgia, as well as on all flights arriving from Russia and Turkey. Based on my experience and what I learned whilst deployed in Marseille, I can say that Liaison Officers hold an important role which is really helpful for the receiving authorities. It is a position which provides an easier workflow for the French authorities. Challenges due to miscommunication can happen, mainly because, in many cases, Georgian passengers cannot speak a foreign language. In addition, for cases involving forged documents only the authorities in Georgia can verify their respective details. It is also necessary to check for potential criminal records of passengers, which again only the Georgian authorities can complete in the shortest possible time. Dozens of potential illegal migrations at the border were prevented. Working together on flights to/from Moscow was also effective as I speak Russian and we did not encounter any difficulties.
My French colleagues and I worked together closely and in a good atmosphere. Such cooperation will certainly have a positive impact on tackling illegal migration. We anticipated that my mission in Marseille would continue with ongoing success, but, unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the severity of the situation globally, flights stopped, the Schengen zone closed and, on that basis, my mission terminated in March. I had to return home immediately but I sincerely hope that I will be able to redeploy and continue my mission, to help my colleagues and to gain more experience. Without doubt, this international exchange experience will have an impact on my career and will be very useful for the future.
I would like to thank the Heads and Managers of the Prometheus Project, as well as my supervisors, the Embassy of Georgia in France and all my French counterparts from Marseille with whom I worked. They all did so much to help and support me, and to keep me safe.
I hope that collectively we will all defeat this pandemic very soon and that we will return to normal life in order to continue working together again, in mutually beneficial and fruitful cooperation.