Bangkok (Thailand), 17 November 2011 - An international database on migrant smuggling came closer to reality as law enforcement officials from Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America met to review UNODC's work on setting up a voluntary migrant smuggling reporting system.
The system will allow source, transit and destination states to collect and share data and to then use it to develop effective and comprehensive evidence-based policies to address migrant smuggling, a low-risk, high-profit crime.
Held 20-21 October 2011, the '2nd Inter-regional Workshop on Improving Evidence-Based Knowledge on Migrant Smuggling from, through, within and to South-East and East Asia. Joining Forces to Stem a Deadly Business' was organized by the UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific. The meeting brought together law enforcement experts from Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, China, Europol, France, Frontex, Germany, Indonesia, INTERPOL, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Maldives, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Pacific Immigration Directors' Conference (PIDC), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam and the UK.
Currently, information and data on migrant smuggling are scattered and often not shared by origin, transit and destination countries. Participants confirmed the need for such a reporting system and strongly welcomed its establishment.
"Our actions are still too often limited by a "silo" mentality. Too much vertical, blinkered thinking and acting," said Mr. Gary Lewis, Regional Representative, UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific. "This results in poor information sharing and a lack of true cooperation.
"For migrant smugglers borders are irrelevant," Mr. Lewis noted. "In fact, making borders irrelevant is the smugglers' core expertise. We need to reduce and eliminate the "spaces of impunity". Smuggling is a dangerous and deadly business and we need to shift our focus from combating migrant smuggling "only" at the borders to efforts aimed at dismantling the networks wherever they are found. This starts with solid data on trends and flows. Hence the importance of this gathering," said Mr. Lewis.
Migrant smuggling is a high-profit, low risk crime. The criminals who organize and profit from it face little risk of detection and punishment. They undermine state sovereignty, and frequently expose smuggled migrants to serious risks during their journey. These migrants are also vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.
Having a better understanding of smuggling patterns is necessary 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.
Participants reviewed the Online Reporting Template (ORT) that will form the heart of the voluntary reporting system, and recommended ways for UNODC to simplify it to ensure user-friendliness. Data collected will include migrant smuggling routes, methods used by smugglers, fees paid, and profiles of migrants and smugglers.
The meeting was a direct consequence of the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, held 29-30 March 2011 in Bali, Indonesia. The Bali Process is an inter-governmental dialogue on migrant smuggling and human trafficking covering mainly West, South, South-East Asia and East Asia as well as the Pacific.
At that meeting, ministers agreed to strengthen information and intelligence on migrant smuggling, and welcomed UNODC assistance to establish a voluntary reporting system on it.
As the custodian of the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is mandated to promote global adherence to the protocol and assist states in implementing it by developing an effective criminal justice response to migrant smuggling. Improving evidence-based knowledge is a crucial pre-requisite to the development of effective policies to address migrant smuggling in a comprehensive way.