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Cambodia: addressing migrant smuggling requires comprehensive coordinated regional action

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 20 March 2013 - Migrant smuggling is a complex issue of concern for Cambodia: each year, according to UNODC estimates, tens of thousands of Cambodians are smuggled into Thailand alone, risking situations of abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. Migrant smuggling also funds criminal organizations and threatens the security of nations.

At a recent meeting in Phnom Penh to draw attention to the problem, participants identified strengthening law enforcement capacity as a key component of a comprehensive response to migrant smuggling.

High-level Cambodia Government representatives emphasised the need for solid cooperation between all stakeholders to tackle smuggling of migrants and reaffirmed the Cambodia Government's commitment to a comprehensive approach to address migrant smuggling.

''The smuggling of migrants is a global issue that Cambodia alone cannot eliminate. Only an international response can overcome the organized criminal groups involved in the smuggling of migrants,'' said HE Sar Kheng, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

Introducing the comprehensive UNODC response to the smuggling of migrants in Cambodia and the region, UNODC Cambodia Country Manager Olivier Lermet emphasized the human costs of migrant smuggling and the need for a coordinated regional and international response.

"Migrant smuggling is not a victimless crime. Smuggled migrants risk abuse, human trafficking and exploitation, often by networks of organized criminals. To defeat a network takes a network - and a coordinated regional and international response," said Lermet.

UNODC has implemented a number of programmes as part of its comprehensive assistance to the Government of Cambodia to strengthen its migrant smuggling response:

The Port Intelligence Unit (PIU) project, funded by the Government of Canada, aims to tackle the smuggling of migrants by boat by establishing intelligence units in ports in Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand. The Cambodia intelligence unit in Sihanoukville is made up of Cambodian officers from the departments of Immigration, Internal Security, Maritime Police and the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection.

The PIU project complements UNODC's Coordination and Analysis Unit (CAU) project, funded by Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The CAU project has created a regional reporting system and database - the Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct (VRS-MSRC) - that serves to collect, share, and facilitate the analysis of information on migrant smuggling in order to inform the development of counter-measures.

In addition, the Partnership Against Transnational-crime through Regional Organized Law-enforcement (PATROL) project has established a network of Border Liaison Offices (BLO) at Cambodia's borders with Vietnam and Thailand. The network is a real-time communication mechanism that allows BLOs at each side of the border to directly exchange information. PATROL is supported mainly by the Australia Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). Other supporters - in alphabetical order - are the CITES Secretariat, UNEP and the United States of America.

Attendees to the meeting, jointly organized by the Cambodia Ministry of Interior and UNODC Cambodia, included senior Cambodia government officials State Secretary, Chou Bun Eng and Under Secretary of State, Sieng Lapresse, Cambodia law enforcement officials, and donor and embassy representatives from Australia, Canada, France, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States.

Also attending were representatives of UN agencies including OHCHR, UNIAP and UNICEF and international organisations such as IOM and the Asia Foundation.

Quinn Tran, First Secretary on Immigration and Citizenship at the Australian Embassy, said: ''Australia supports UNODC initiatives in the region, including the PATROL and the CAU Projects, and recognizes the role these projects, together with the Port Intelligence Unit project, play in assisting countries in the region to manage the flow of people and goods across their borders and particularly to address irregular movements that occur.''