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Joining forces to fight a deadly business: UNODC hosts workshop to address the common challenges of migrant smuggling

Bangkok (Thailand), 21 December 2010
- From 8 to 10 December, 39 law enforcement experts participated in an inter-regional workshop on improving evidence-based knowledge on migrant smuggling from, through and within South-East Asia, which took place in Bangkok. Working in the fields of investigations, data collection and analysis on migrant smuggling, the experts came from Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Maldives, Pakistan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Viet Nam as well as from the European Law Enforcement Organisation (Europol), the world's largest international police organization (INTERPOL), the Pacific Immigration Directors' Conference (PIDC) and UNODC.

Migrant smuggling is a high-profit-low risk crime. Fact is, that those criminals who organize and profit it from it, face little risk of detection and punishment. Aside from undermining state sovereignty, migrant smugglers frequently expose smuggled migrants to serious risks during their journey. In addition, smuggled migrants become vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and human trafficking during the smuggling process or as a result of it.

Despite the tremendous challenges and threats that migrant smuggling poses to states, societies and the smuggled migrants themselves, evidence-based knowledge on migrant smuggling from, through and within South-East Asia is scattered and incomplete. Yet, having a better understanding of migrant smuggling patterns is a necessity in order to develop effective policies and measures to better prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants. Ultimately, sound data will allow governments to reach out to people in an effort to prevent them from placing their destinies into the hands of profit-seeking criminals.

During the workshop, the law enforcement experts exchanged information on current migrant smuggling trends, including on routes and migrant smuggling methods used. Moreover, participants discussed ways to improve data collection and analysis on this issue.

As a result of the discussions, it became clear that establishing a body of knowledge on migrant smuggling remains a major challenge. The level of information collected and strategic knowledge gained is very uneven among countries. Even in countries, where information is collected, lack of inter-agency cooperation often hampers the strategic analysis of the information into one national picture.

Against this backdrop, the law enforcement actors strongly welcomed UNODC work on establishing a platform to foster coordination among law enforcement agencies within and between countries, and on setting up a mechanism, including a much needed database, to collect and analyse information with regards to migrant smuggling from, through and within South-East Asia.