Ministers endorse UNODC data collection on migrant smuggling

Bali (Indonesia), 5 April 2013 - After granting UNODC full membership in the Bali Process at its Senior Officials Meeting the previous day, the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime endorsed the UNODC-developed Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct (VRS-MSRC).

The VRS-MSRC is a secure, internet-based tool that allows contributing member states to collect and share information and analysis of migrant smuggling and irregular migration to address strategic knowledge gaps and to better inform national and regional migrant smuggling policies.

The VRS-MSRC is based on the principle of mutual information sharing, meaning that only states that contribute information to the VRS-MSRC are able to access data provided by other states. UNODC developed the VRS-MSRC - in close consultation with authorities from countries and international organizations in Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and North America - in response to the Fourth Bali Process Ministerial Conference, at which Ministers welcomed UNODC assistance in developing such a system.

Delegates repeatedly emphasized the importance of gathering and sharing information and intelligence on migrant smuggling.

"Migrant smuggling is not just an illicit service industry that undermines state sovereignty. It is also a deadly business," said Mr. John Sandage, UNODC Director, Division for Treaty Affairs."Smuggled migrants perish by drowning. They perish in containers. It's a profitable business -- and the organizers face little risk of detection and punishment. We must reverse this balance."

Dr. Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia Minister for Foreign Affairs, emphasised the importance of early detection in his opening remarks at Conference.

"Early detection will enable prompt and swift response by states to people smuggling and trafficking in persons, and thereby minimize the potential of abuse and exploitation of victims," said Dr. Marty Matalegawa.

"Early detection will be effective if supported by a robust information-sharing network. It needs to be done domestically, as well as through cooperation between states .The VRS-MSRC is a concrete measure to improve data collection and information sharing that would strengthen our early detection capacity."

Mr. Brendan O'Connor, Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, added Australia's voice in support of the VRS-MSRC: "We encourage Bali Process members to continue strengthening information and intelligence sharing through the Bali Process secure web portal and the Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct."

The Co-Chairs' Outcome Statement of the Ministerial Conference underscored the unanimous Bali Process Members support for the VRS-MSRC: "Ministers encourage members to participate in the Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct developed by UNODC to strengthen its value as an information database to enhance and better inform policy development in response to migrant smuggling."

During the preceding Bali Process Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) on 1 April 2013, a number of States that had participated in a test run of the VRS-MSRC had shared their feedback and attested to the benefits of the VRS-MSRC.

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. It is co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia, which together with New Zealand, Thailand, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), form the Bali Process Steering Group.