The pilot phase of the Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct (VRS-MSRC) in Support of the Bali Process held a successful test run, which concluded with a two-day validation workshop last week. Australia, Cambodia, France, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Maldives, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tonga, UK, and the USA, as well as the Pacific Immigration Directors' Conference (PIDC) participated in the trial run.
The VRS-MSRC is an internet-based, secure system that facilitates the collection, sharing, and analysis of data on migrant smuggling, irregular migration and other related conduct. It was developed by UNODC in close consultation with law enforcement authorities from countries and international organizations in Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and North America. This work was undertaken by UNODC following the 4th Bali Process Ministerial meeting, where ministers welcomed UNODC assistance in establishing a voluntary reporting system .
To enable evidence-based policy formulation at national and regional levels, the VRS-MSRC seeks to collect information on: Quantitative size of flows; major routes used; fees paid; means of transport & methods used; profiles of irregular & smuggled migrants; and profiles of migrant smugglers.
"Only by sharing data, states can develop a sound knowledge base to inform effective policies and counter-measures in response to migrant smuggling. UNODC's role is to facilitate this." stressed Sebastian Baumeister, the VRS-MSRC project manager.
Focusing on irregular migration and migrant smuggling within, to and from the regions that are covered by the Bali Process, the VRS-MSRC is open to Bali Process participating states, and those states that are seriously affected by irregular migration and migrant smuggling related to the Bali Process regions
The Validation Workshop reviewed the VRS-MSRC in light of the experiences of state authorities that participated in the pilot phase. The participants unanimously underscored the value of the VRS-MSRC.
"It's unique, and it bridges a gap that significantly hampers my analytical work - the lack of information about migrant smuggling in the region, and the possible risks for my country," said Ms. Susan Egan, of Immigration New Zealand.
In addition to being an effective tool for state authorities that allows for the sharing of non-nominal information among states, participants also pointed out that the VRS-MSRC enables data sharing among relevant agencies at the national level.
"It provides an effective, national platform for centralizing relevant information. This helps us to analyse better the current situation and strengthen our response to migrant smuggling," said Mr. Ibrahim Ashraf, of Immigration and Emigration Maldives.
Over the two-day validation workshop, participants identified ways to further improve the user-friendliness and the functionality of the system. Although participants fully supported the current scope of the data collected through the system, they identified some areas for more detailed data collection. UNODC will address their recommendations and incrementally introduce new features.
In cooperation with the Bali Process, UNODC will launch the system in 2013. Based upon the principle of mutual information sharing, only states that participate in the VRS-MSRC can access and search the data that is provided by other participating states. Servicing participating state authorities, UNODC will also analyse the data to produce strategic intelligence products to share with participating states.
Because the objective of the Regional Centre's Coordination and Analysis Unit (CAU) is to assist states in building their capacities in collecting and analysing data, a variety of in-depth training courses are also offered to state authorities under UNODC's Regional Training Programme on Operational and Strategic Analysis on Migrant Smuggling .
The CAU also carries out research activities and published a systematic review of available empirical knowledge on smuggling of migrants in August 2012 entitled Migrant Smuggling in Asia: A Thematic Review of Literature and the accompanying Annotated Bibliography.
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