What do we know about the involvement of transnational organized crime in trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants?

14 May 2010, Vienna, Austria

In order to attempt providing, if not a response, but leads towards it, UNODC in partnership with the Institute for International  Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP) of Ghent University, initiated a study focusing on the role of organized crime in trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants cases.

A literature review revealed that in spite of increasing attention on issues of organized crime, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, there remains little reliable knowledge on any of the three concepts researched. Furthermore, limited understanding is often prejudiced because of the weak empirical basis. In addition, strong diverging opinions can be identified. It became clear from the review of the existing literature and from consultations with experts, that the key players on the criminal markets of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants can be organized in a large variety of ways. The global landscape of organized crime, whether it is in smuggling of migrants or trafficking in persons, drugs, weapons, etc. has changed. The overall common ground in this respect is that not only is there enormous diversity in the landscape of organized criminal involvement in both phenomena, but that overall there is also enormous diversity as to the different actors active in these markets. The actors involved may be organized criminal groups, individual traffickers or smugglers, or even friends and family of migrants or trafficking victims.

The exercise also emphasized the scarcity of data in this area, and while containing interesting cases, the study remains theoretical. It is thus difficult to assess, on the information UNODC presently has, the impact of any corresponding knowledge or lack thereof in current criminal justice responses to these crimes.

Building on the momentum of the Crime Congress, which addressed in its plenary sessions the topic of " Criminal Justice Responses to Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons: Links to Organized Crime", and the outcome of this study, UNODC organizes, in the margins of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, a panel discussion with experts from research institutes, Member States and international organizations on Wednesday 19 May 2010, from 1 to 3pm in room M2 at the Vienna International Centre.

The purpose of the panel is to evaluate the involvement of organized crime in these activities and further the dialogue on how to enhance anti-trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants efforts in response, as well as to provide views on how to move forward in the study of the links between these phenomena and organized crime. A follow-up side event is foreseen to take place in the margins of the Conference of the Parties in October 2010 to gather additional input and continue the discussion.

A summary of the event in the margins of the Crime Commission will be available as of June 2010.

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Download Issue Paper on Organized Crime involvement in Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants