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Human trafficking and the Smuggling of Migrants 

Human trafficking is a global crime that violates the fundamental rights of women, men and children. Member States in the region have become territories of origin, transit and destination for victims. Although various national and international actors have undertaken major efforts to prevent and combat this crime, lack of border security makes it relatively easy for the transit of victims of different nationalities in this region.

The levels of information about the crime of human trafficking vary depending on political and technical circumstances. The refusal of some authorities to recognize the existence of trafficking activities within their territories, the confusion surrounding distinct handling between the concepts of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants and the lack of uniform standards for conducting statistical analyses, make the accurate assessment of the extent of the problem in Central America and the Caribbean diffuclt.

Central American and Caribbean victims have been identified in the United States of America, Canada, Japan, South America and the European Union to name a few areas. Similarly these extra-regional flows are accompanied by a large number of Central American and Caribbean victims within the same region, which also represents a challenge for the authorities.

Central American countries have signed and ratified the Protocol to Prevent , Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. Member States in the region have enacted special laws in line with the Protocol, created special prosecutors, initiated processes for a more efficient international cooperation that have resulted in a considerable increase in the number of convictions. Especially, prosecutors and police have received specialized technical assistance from UNODC for the best research and prosecution of crime and the promotion of mechanisms for mutual legal assistance between the international cooperation units of Public Prosecutors Offices and the Attorney General's Office of Panama.


Regional Coordination and Capacity-Building for Border Security in Central America

As the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols thereto against trafficking (Palermo Convention), the Office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been mandated by the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, to promote the ratification of this international instrument and provide technical assistance to States Parties for their application within the rule of law. The Protocol establishes clear lines of action:

  1. To prevent and combat trafficking in persons;
  2. To protect and assist victims of human trafficking respecting their human rights at all times;
  3. To promote international cooperation among States Parties and other stakeholders to achieve the above objectives.

Within its mandate, UNODC for Central America and the Caribbean seeks to strengthen the existing mechanisms of border control in Central America and Dominican Republic. The focus of the project on human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants is to strengthen international cooperation and coordination for the exchange of accurate and up-to-date information and the facilitation of mutual legal assistance for preventing and combating human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

The activities implemented by UNODC on human trafficking and migrant smuggling in Central America and Dominican Republic are based on the "Comprehensive Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants", which frames the work done by UNODC worldwide in terms of subject matter and is the main tool for methodological and technical assistance provided to this Office. Specifically, the project's guiding principles are the respect for human rights, gender considerations, non-discrimination and sustainability.

The project is funded by the Government of Canada and responds to the current demands for organization at the regional level.  This initiative falls under the framework of the component on combating crime of the Regional Security Strategy for Central America and the activities to be developed are directly aligned with the priorities and needs identified in the A.B.1. Project of the System of Central American Integration (SICA).  

UNODC works closely at the regional level with the International Organization for Migration, INTERPOL, the Central American and Caribbean Council of Public Prosecutors and its Technical Secretariat and the Central American Integration System (SICA).