Director General/Executive Director
Remarks at 68th UN General Assembly side event on "Human rights at international borders"
New York, 4 October 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me here today.
I would like to thank OHCHR and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the organizers of this side event.
This meeting represents an important contribution to ensuring that the issue of migrants' rights remains central to any discussion on international migration.
UNODC, as the guardian of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and related key instruments, supports national actors to respond to all types of illicit trafficking, including trafficking in drugs, firearms and other goods.
We have worked with practitioners to develop successful and sophisticated responses such as controlled delivery techniques.
But people are not commodities. We must never forget that the act of smuggling can endanger the safety and even lives of migrants, or subject them to inhuman treatment and humiliation.
The UNTOC Protocols on human trafficking and migrant smuggling address prevention and prosecution.
This comprehensive approach provided for by the Protocols make clear that the protection of trafficked persons and smuggled migrants is always a priority.
How States are able to fulfil their obligations to ensure that rights protection is integrated into criminal justice responses to human trafficking and migrant smuggling, including at borders, is central to our discussion here today.
For example, the duty to criminalize the smuggling of migrants is sometimes confused with the criminalization of irregular migration.
However, anti-smuggling laws are by definition designed to target the criminals who facilitate illegal entry, not the migrant.
Migrants themselves should be afforded the protection they deserve, and should be considered potential allies in preventing and prosecuting the crime committed by smugglers.
Criminalizing smuggling can serve to protect migrants and to prevent human rights violations by deterring smugglers and organized criminal groups.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Migrant smuggling and human trafficking are two transnational crimes that border officials, sometimes unknowingly, encounter far too frequently.
Both crimes involve people who are being used and exploited by criminals. These people have often suffered untold dangers and indignities on the journey that brought them to that border crossing.
While acknowledging the many challenges and pressures state authorities must deal with at international borders, we must also ensure that border points do not become a no man's land for the vulnerable.
Today's discussion will, rightly, focus on what we need more of to promote respect of human rights at borders.
But we must also keep in mind that we already have strong and relevant frameworks in place, including through the UNTOC and its Protocols.
We need to ensure that these frameworks are better applied.
The present event is a welcome opportunity to join forces and explore how we can support States to fulfil their existing international obligations and ensure that the protection of human rights is fully integrated into border authorities' responses to transnational challenges.