Trincomalee (Sri Lanka), 25 March 2020 – Overcrowded vessels engaged in Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (TIPSOM) through the waters of the Pacific Ocean have become a growing concern among Southeast Asian countries. However, if maritime law enforcement agencies don’t intervene in the correct way they can increase the risks of capsizing, posing a significant safety risks for passengers and crew members.
In order to address this, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), through its Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) developed a tailored training curriculum, highlighting thematic areas related to TIPSOM scenarios, including its identification, methods and types, overall safety at sea, protection of vulnerable persons, health conditions, quarantine requirements and evidence collection.
During the past two weeks, and for the first time, UNODC-GMCP delivered a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) training course focused on approaching and dealing with overcrowded vessels transporting smuggled migrants and/or trafficked people. The training course took place at the Sri Lanka Navy Base in Trincomalee, bringing together 26 officers from South and Southeast Asian maritime law enforcement agencies including: the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA); the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA), the Directorate of Marine Patrol, Customs and Excise, the Indonesian Navy, and the Marine Police; and the Sri Lanka Coastguard and Navy.
Shanaka Jayasekara, Programme Coordinator for UNODC-GMCP in Bangkok, overlooking activities in the Pacific Ocean region, said: “A specialised course to train frontline personnel to deal with smuggling of migrants at sea is of great importance, both to counter this illicit activity and to protect the lives of those onboard. UNODC-GMCP will continue supporting maritime law enforcement from targeted Member States in addressing this matter”.
Well aware that maritime law enforcement is a male-dominated sector, UNODC-GMCP developed a strategy to have a gender-inclusive approach across all regional teams, working closely with national counterparts to enable female participation within all GMCP capacity building initiatives. So for the first time, the training course involved the participation of female officers from the Sri Lanka Navy. One of them, LCDR(PRO) KKUL Perera, said: “As female law enforcement officers, this training gives us the opportunity to provide emergency support and to respond to the needs of women and girls who have been caught up in crimes at sea and illegal migrant smuggling. Lacking specialized training and law enforcement training mechanisms for women create huge gaps in audiences and trials. Hence, these kind of training programmes promote opportunities for women in the sector, motivating us and considering us as powerful agents, and bringing down barriers to allow for more effective prosecutions in this type of crimes”.
VBSS training courses delivered by UNODC are possible thanks to the generous support of the Government of Japan.