Stepping up the global response to trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants

Photo: UNODC 25 May 2016 - Across the world, children, women and men are on the move for different reasons - some are fleeing conflict and war, while others may be escaping serious human rights violations or poverty. Others start for that most universal human desire - the hope for a better future. Regardless of their specific reasons, too many of these perilous journeys are organized by smugglers who profit from their endangerment and vulnerability, placing them at serious risk of abuse, exploitation and even potential trafficking at different stages of the journey.

Against this backdrop and on the side-lines of this week's Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), a high-level event was held on the recently launched Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants.

The four-year initiative marks a significant milestone in the global fight against trafficking and smuggling, and brings together the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) delivering GLO.ACT in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). By identifying proven good practices and lessons learned, GLO.ACT aims to prevent and address the two crimes within 13 strategically selected countries from across the globe.

"For all of the positive effects of migration, these unprecedented flows of people are generating new criminal opportunities, particularly for migrant smugglers and human traffickers," noted UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov at the event. "At-risk migrants, especially children, have become easy targets for abuse and exploitation, and clearly more needs to be done to reduce vulnerabilities, enhance protection and stop the criminals. The continuing crises which we're witnessing makes it even more critical that we take steps to address these shortcomings and strengthen criminal justice responses. Our project with the European Union seeks to do exactly that."

This was echoed by Myria Vassiliadou, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator: "Our partnership with UNODC is a strategic and a longstanding one. Our response must be comprehensive: addressing people's vulnerabilities and treating victims as rights holders, as well as cracking down on the profits and reducing demand that fuels trafficking. Victims must not be punished. Together with UNODC we can stop a culture of impunity for those who treat human beings as commodities. GLO.ACT can contribute in realizing this and we look forward to achieving results and impact."

The EU and UNODC have a long history of close cooperation in preventing and combatting trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants. The current migration and refugee crisis has made it all the more important to jointly and comprehensively address these distinct, yet often overlapping, complex crimes. Criminal networks seize opportunities to generate illicit profits at the expense of States and people and right now, organized crime groups are taking advantage of the gaps that exist in the laws, strategies and operational capacities of States.

In coordination with the 13 countries, GLO.ACT is set to develop and implement comprehensive national counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling responses and strengthen their capacities to efficiently address these crimes and the inter-linkages between them. Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa and Ukraine are all covered under GLO.ACT, and since the launch in early-2016, consultative meetings with government authorities, international organisations and civil society have already been held in nine of the 13 countries in planning the way forward. This work was presented by the GLO.ACT Coordinator, Margaret Akullo, at the high level event.

Ambassador Jaime A. Cabal Sanclemente, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations in Vienna and moderator of the high-level event, noted: "For Colombia, GLO.ACT represents a major opportunity for the development and strengthening of national capacities, which in turn, will strengthen the exchange of experiences and best practices at bilateral and regional level against phenomena that unfortunately and on a daily basis,  has a greater  impact globally. Given the challenges presented by trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants, we call upon the international community to develop integrated initiatives such as GLO.ACT."

GLO.ACT's implementation strategy follows a multidisciplinary approach placing trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants under the scope of different relevant sectors such as criminal law, migration, labour and social policies. The project focusses on setting-up the frameworks that need to be in place to enable States to efficiently address the two crimes, thus working to ensure that policies are sustainable in the long-term.

The work is rooted in a series of key instruments, such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementing Protocols against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants; the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and EU legislation against trafficking in human beings, all of them key tools in tackling these crimes.

Additionally, GLO.ACT will draw from UNODC's other ongoing anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling global programmes. For instance, in the past two years, over 2,000 criminal justice practitioners and government officials from more than 70 countries have been coached in effectively investigating and prosecuting the two crimes. Concurrently, training on appropriate support to victims and smuggled migrants has also been provided. Meanwhile specific country and regional programmes are also being implemented globally in a bid to provide mentoring and tailored technical assistance. UNODC's work, moreover, is directly relevant to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the facilitation of orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration (such as through decreasing profit opportunities for criminal networks); the provision of access to justice for all; and the building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Further information:

The UNODC Executive Director's speech at the event

GLO.ACT website

25th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ)

Programme of events during the 25th Crime Commission

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