As a first in a series of Regional Expert Group Meetings on the Smuggling of Migrants with a focus on the South Eastern Europe, UNODC conducted a regional expert consultation in Belgrade on 16-18 November 2016 on joint criminal investigations and prosecutions and disruption of illicit financial flows deriving from the smuggling of migrants. The regional expert meeting, which was made possible with generous funding and support from France, provided an opportunity among experts to exchange and discuss recent trends and modus operandi concerning the smuggling of migrants through the so-called Eastern Mediterranean route.
Mr. Mitar Djuraskovic, Head of Department in the Ministry of Interior of Serbia, H.E. Ms. Christine Moro, Ambassador of France in Serbia and Ms. Irina Vojackova Sollorano, UN Resident Coordinator for Serbia, in their opening speeches reminded participants of the recently adopted New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, stressed the challenges related to the Western Balkans migration route in its political and security dimensions, and emphasized the crucial role cooperation among practitioners plays in addressing these dimensions.
After a review of the trends and patterns of the smuggling of migrants through the Western Balkans route by regional and international organizations and the academia, experts exchanged around concrete cases of cooperation in investigation and prosecution of smuggling presented by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.
Given the centrality of the principle "follow the money" for effectively combating the smuggling of migrants as form of organized crime, a session was dedicated to financial investigations and anti-money laundering of the proceeds of the smuggling of migrants crime. After the sharing of perspective from international organizations, the private sector and civil society, experts continued discussing concrete cases analysis from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia.
The regional expert meeting was highly valued by it participants as useful and practical, and it was agreed by the expert practitioners to meet again in 2017, with the support of UNODC, to further exchange experiences from their practice, and to network with the aim to improve direct communication and cooperation, in particular in the area of disrupting illicit financial flows deriving from the smuggling of migrants in the South Eastern Europe.