This workshop would not have been possible without the financial support of the European Union

Workshop on International Criminal Justice Cooperation in Response to Migrant Smuggling

6 - 7 July 2009, Cairo, Egypt

From 6 to 7 of July, law enforcers and prosecutors from several countries in North Africa and Europe met to discuss criminal justice cooperation in response to the challenges of combating migrant smuggling. This meeting was made possible through funding received from the European Union.

Background and Purpose

Smuggling of migrants occurs transnationally, making international cooperation an essential prerequisite to prevent and combat this crime. As the sum of migrant smugglers form closely meshed networks transcending national borders on various levels of geographical scope, so too must a criminal justice response be coordinated among States in order to be effective.

Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime states that the purpose of the Convention is to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organized crime more effectively. Further to this, article 2 of the Migrant Smuggling Protocol reiterates its purpose of promoting cooperation to prevent and combat migrant smuggling, while protecting the rights of smuggled migrants.

With the fulfilment of these UNTOC and Protocol purposes in mind, the workshop aimed to depict instruments that can facilitate international cooperation in criminal justice matters in response to migrant smuggling and exchange of information on criminal trends on migrants smuggling and law enforcement responses to it. In so doing, the workshop provided a platform to facilitate mutual learning from each other and to exchange views to explore how international cooperation can be used in an effective way in order to support national efforts in disrupting migrant smuggling, dismantling criminal networks as well as investigating, prosecuting and securing the conviction of perpetrators.

The workshop brought together experienced practitioners from law enforcement and prosecution working in the field of investigating and prosecution of migrant smuggling and international cooperation in criminal justice matters. Participants attended from Egypt, France, Italy, Libya, Morocco, the Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, as well as Europol, Interpol and UNODC.

With regard to the instruments that can facilitate international cooperation in criminal justice matters in response to migrant smuggling, the workshop discussed existing tools and mechanisms to facilitate international cooperation in criminal justice matters such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementing Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, the role of Interpol and Europol and Mutual Legal Assistance. With regard to exchanging information on criminal trends on migrant smuggling and law enforcement responses to it, the workshop reviewed trends in the smuggling of migrants, perpetrators and criminal groups involved, including information about their modus operandi and smuggling routes. Experiences and lessons learnt in investigating and prosecution migrant smugglers and securing their conviction where shared.

Participants at the workshop agreed on a recommendation statement on which to act as a result of discussions.

Expert practitioners meet in Cairo to strengthen cooperation in criminal justice reponse to migrant smuggling

Recommendation statement adopted by workshop participants

The socio-economic roots of the phenomenon of migrant smuggling have to be considered when formulating a comprehensive approach in response to the crime. International cooperation in criminal matters is an essential prerequisite to effectively combat migrant smuggling. The cross-border nature of the crime means that smuggled migrants and offenders are often nationals of other jurisdictions. However, many transnational migrant smuggling cases are not investigated using available international cooperation mechanisms. As a consequence, smugglers continue their activities undisturbed, simply change routes to continue their crimes, or only the lower-level criminals are caught, without dismantling the criminal organisations behind them.

There is need to complement border controls by increasing law enforcement efforts to dismantle the smuggling of migrants networks in the countries of origin and transit and through enhanced international law enforcement cooperation between countries of destination, transit and origin. There is also a need for prosecutors and the judiciary to cooperate across borders to ensure that migrant smugglers are brought to justice.

Unless the organized crime groups who smuggle migrants are dismantled, migrant smugglers will continue to operate and quickly adapt their methods and routes to changing circumstances such as improved border controls or changes in the visa regimes.

Regional and inter-regional approaches must be fostered as a priority. Without strong cooperation between countries of destination, transit and origin within and between regions, migrant smuggling will continue across borders without meeting with a strong cross-border challenge.  In many instances, national and bilateral responses to migrant smuggling have only resulted in displacement of routes to other countries.

The Workshop adopted the following recommendations:

Full use of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Additional Protocols as a basis for international cooperation in criminal matters

  • States that have not yet done so should ratify, or accede to, the UNTOC and its supplementing Protocols without delay. States should criminalize in their domestic legislation the offences provided for combating the smuggling of migrants through land, sea and air under the Convention and Protocols, in order to establish the dual criminality basis required for the granting of assistance in criminal matters. The UNODC Model Law on Smuggling of Migrants can be used as a basis for implementing the Migrant Smuggling Protocol in both common and civil law countries.
  • States should, in the absence of other bilateral or regional bases for cooperation, fully use the UNTOC as legal basis for international cooperation in criminal matters.
  • The need to guarantee fair treatment and respect for human rights for any person subject to proceedings under the Convention should be kept in mind at all stages of such proceedings. Illegal migrants should not be subject to any form of discrimination and their human rights should be protected at all times.
  • The status of migrants in countries of destination and transit must be determined on a case by case basis, with due consideration for the best interests of persons concerned, state sovereignty and security, and the role that smuggled migrants play in the criminal justice process by virtue of having witnessed migrant smuggling and related crimes.
  • Financial investigation is a key instrument to investigate and dismantle migrant smuggling networks and disrupt their activities.  Cooperation within, between and across borders should be increased to this end.
  • It was recommended that UNODC expand existing legislative databases to include all legislations adopted in the area of combating organized crime and migrant smuggling, so as to enable the legal harmonization with the applicable international instruments. States should supply UNODC with as much information as possible to this end.

National capacity building and training

  • Technical assistance for capacity building and training of national law enforcement and criminal justice officers in charge of investigating and prosecuting organized crime and involved in international cooperation should be provided by UNODC through its technical assistance projects.
  • Participants welcome the efforts undertaken by UNODC in elaborating Training Modules for law enforcers and prosecutors to combat migrant smuggling, which provide a solid basis for training purposes. These modules should be adapted to country contexts and used widely in training of law enforcers and prosecutors.
  • Training on migrant smuggling should be incorporated into the training curricula of relevant law enforcement institutions.
  • Law enforcement and criminal justice officers once trained should be used in specialized functions where training received would be built upon and have a maximum impact. Awareness of the issue of migrant smuggling should also be raised among law enforcers generally. The establishments of units specialized in the fight against migrant smuggling, with expertise in areas such as financial crimes, was recommended as a best practice.

Strengthening regional cooperation

  • The European Arrest Warrant, a system by which arrest warrants in relation to a list of serious crimes were mutually recognized among countries of the European Union and which allowed surrender of persons between judicial authorities within short deadlines, was in this regard considered as a leading model to avoid the pitfalls and delays of extradition among countries within a region.
  • Regular meetings with designated focal points from criminal justice institutions in charge of international cooperation in criminal matters - such as the present workshop - were recommended as useful to develop working relationships based on trust among counterparts, exchange information, discuss common concerns.
  • UNODC Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa should provide for regular contacts among authorities in the region and promote the development of informal law enforcement and judicial networks in the North Africa region, with the aim of strengthening cooperation in the fight of transnational organized crime.

Strengthening inter-regional cooperation

  • In order to overcome lack of consultations, communication and understanding of each other's legal system and requirements which impede extradition and mutual legal assistance, it was recommended that UNODC organize similar workshops of authorities in charge of international cooperation in criminal matters, at an inter-regional level.
  • Regions or sub-regions with a significant flow of incoming/outgoing requests for assistance should be brought together to get to know each other, establish a common good will and understand each other's positions, needs and requirements.

Information sharing

  • The participants in the Workshop recommend the establishment of a network of designated focal points to facilitate the exchange of expertise and information to enhance the international cooperation in combating migrant smuggling.
  • Countries of origin, transit and destination should take increased advantage of existing tools for information exchange, particularly Interpol exchange systems and warning notices.
  • Participants of the workshop are encouraged to disseminate these recommendations among their colleagues in the criminal justice sector, both in their own countries and in countries of partnership to promote the strengthening of cooperative networks against migrant smuggling.


This workshop would not have been possible without the financial support of the European Union

people smuggling human smuggling