Regional Training Workshop on the Smuggling of Migrants by Sea in South Asia


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held its third trans-regional training workshop on preventing and combatting the smuggling of migrants by sea. This workshop focused on the Indian Ocean/South Asia region and took place in Hyderabad, India at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (SVP) National Police Academy (NPA) on 28-30 November 2016.

Ms. Aruna Bahuguna, Director of the National Police Academy (NPA) in Hyderabad opened the event. The workshop was delivered by experts of the Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section and of the Global Maritime Crime Programme of UNODC, together with resource persons from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the US Coast Guard (USCG), the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the New Zealand High Commissioner, the Hyderabad National Police Academy and the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. Delivery methods included presentations, group work, plenary discussions, case studies, exercises and presentations from participants.

All speakers underlined the importance of partnerships, both regionally and internationally, as a vital component in developing stronger and better coordinated criminal justice responses for ensuring organizing criminal groups engaged in smuggling are identified and brought to justice and their networks dismantled. The workshop was possible thanks to financial support of the United States Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (DOS/INL) and the Government of New Zealand.

Workshop participants consisting of frontline officers, criminal justice practitioners and policymakers from Bangladesh, Maldives, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka were invited to take stock of the current challenges in addressing migrant smuggling (in particular at sea), to exchange good practices with a view to building capacity along the concerned routes, and to come up with concrete actions for future engagement at the regional, sub-regional or bilateral level, including with regional and international organizations. Themes covered during the three day workshop included challenges and best practices on cooperation and investigation of smuggling of migrants by sea, trends and modus operandi of smugglers in the region and applicable domestic legislative frameworks and case law. 

The three-day workshop was successful thanks to the overall level and diversity of expertise of participants and speakers. Participants shared insights, experiences and views throughout the workshop and acknowledged their change in perception of the crime of smuggling of migrants and the need to balance criminal justice responses with protecting the rights of migrants. Participants also welcomed the opportunity they were given to deepen their understanding of the challenges posed by migrant smuggling including at sea, and the value in establishing regular channels of interaction, information and intelligence sharing to support investigations and prosecutions of smuggling networks. As it was highlighted during the workshop, sometimes to foster international cooperation "it is not about what you know but it is about who you know!".

Previous Trans-Regional training workshops on Smuggling by Sea were held in Panama (2015) and  Italy (2015).