Why we need to raise awareness amongst travel agents, tour operators and overseas employment promoters to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling

                                 

Islamabad, Pakistan - 27 September 2017 - GLO.ACT - The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants organized, on 27 September 2017, a workshop for tour operators and overseas employment promoters (OEP) to raise awareness about Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and the Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) as well as to help prevent abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices.

There are many criminal networks illegally transporting Pakistani nationals to various destination countries that are reported to be pocketing millions of rupees in the process. According the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), human traffickers and migrant smugglers manage to masquerade as travel agents, tour operators, and as education and immigration consultants, despite the fact that travel agents and overseas employment promoters (OEP) are being regulated by Department of Tourism Services (DTS) and Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) respectively. As far as education and immigration consultants are concerned, they are operating as freelancers and are currently not being regulated, a fact that makes potential clients even more vulnerable to exploitation.

In light of the above, UNODC identified the need to bring together travel agents, tour operators and OEPs with their relevant government counterparts in order to raise awareness about TIP and SOM as well as working on proposals to develop a regulatory framework for education and immigration consultants.  

In his opening remarks, Mr. Naweed Riaz, International Law Enforcement Advisor for UNODC, said that: "There is a need to bring together all the relevant stakeholders to discuss and provide solutions for our common problem of TIP and SOM". While UNODC Programme Officer, Ms. Shahida Gillani explained that: "Many human traffickers masquerade as travel agents, employment promoters and education and immigration consultants. We need to ensure that a prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership approach is adopted to combat these crimes."

During the event, Mr. Ehsan Gilani, Senior Programme Associate for UNODC presented case studies where human traffickers masqueraded as travel agents but eventually were convicted by a court of law. While Mr. Asif Jah, a consultant for UNODC, gave a brief presentation on existing laws, gaps and what should be done to address these. Mr. Omar Saleem Cheema, Deputy Director from the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE), stressed the need to create a regulatory framework for the unregulated sector.

Workshop participants agreed that a regulatory framework needed to be drafted in collaboration with relevant government departments. It was suggested that a working group should be created that includes the DTS, the BEOE, the FIA, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Law. The idea being that such a working group will be able to assist and support the government in fighting TIP and SOM.

The workshop was attended by representatives of relevant government departments, including the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (MOPHRD), the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) and Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF). The private sector was represented the Travel Agents Association, different tour operators and OEPs.

The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The project is being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). GLO.ACT aims to provide assistance to governmental authorities and civil society organizations across 13 strategically selected countries: Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa, and Ukraine. It supports the development of more effective responses to trafficking and smuggling, including providing assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and direct support mechanisms.

 

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Shahida Gilani, Programme Officer Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling

Shahida.gillani@unodc.org

 

www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/glo-act/

Email: glo.act@un.org

Twitter:  @glo_act