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Narrowing the knowledge gap on migrant smuggling in Cambodia

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 11 October 2010
- Why do people entrust others with their lives? What do migrants experience when they are smuggled? What are the human and social costs of migrant smuggling? Does migrant smuggling fuel irregular migration? What is the connection between human exploitation, human trafficking and migrant smuggling? What are the factors that shape the market for migrant smuggling? What is the extent of this market? How many people resort to the "services" offered by migrant smugglers? How many people are abandoned during the smuggling process? How many people have lost their lives because they got stuck on a sinking ship or suffocated while hiding in a vehicle?

These are just some of the questions that need to be answered in order to better prevent and combat migrant smuggling. Governments across East Asia and the Pacific need to be able to determine the extent of the problem and the characteristics of the organized crime groups involved. Currently, there is no existing baseline for assessing the situation, analysing trends or developing strategic responses to migrant smuggling in the region.

Advocating "evidence-based" policy development, UNODC this year launched its Coordination and Analysis Unit on migrant smuggling, which aims to establish a regional and institutional mechanism to collect and analyse data on migrant smuggling within, through and from South-East Asia.

On 20 September, a joint working group meeting of representatives from the Government of Cambodia and UNODC was held to determine the steps that need to be taken in order to successfully implement the coordination and analysis project in Cambodia. Paving the way for the elaboration of a national workplan on combating migrant smuggling, participants agreed to carry out an assessment of the current structures and capacities on existing data collection and analysis in order to ensure that the coordination and analysis project will build upon and complement existing efforts.

The Chair of the working group meeting, Sieng Lapresse, said: "This first dialogue was extremely useful to share knowledge and explore together the way strategic information could be collected, advocacy efforts enhanced and potential victims better protected in the future. The discussions were quite frank and useful, with the law enforcement and the judiciary sectors actively participating."

Narrowing the knowledge gap on migrant smuggling is a prerequisite to develop comprehensive policies that will effectively reduce the smuggling of migrants. With the Government of Cambodia taking a strong role in the coordination and analysis project, another step has been taken to achieve this.