Speech by Cristina Albertin on "Promoting Safe Mobility and Preventing Irregular Migration"

It is a pleasure and privilege for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to convene and host this long awaited consultation on promoting safe mobility and preventing irregular migration together with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and with the EU member states as engaged partners in this process.

Smuggling of migrants - i.e. of human beings - affects almost every country in the world, as country of origin, of transit or of destination. It costs and endangers thousands of people's lives every year. Smuggling of migrants is a serious crime and one that is considerably handled and controlled by transnational organized crime syndicates.

We may hear little about it, but when we do hear about it, the news are usually full of tragic sufferings of human beings, which give rise to ample human rights concerns. ust remember cases of migrants drowning in unsafe vessels, suffocating to death in overcrowded truck compartments and ships, or being victimized for revealing information about smuggling gangs. When finally reached their destination, many of them find themselves locked in vicious cycles of violence, exploitation and abuse, with no resort to outside help at all.

Violations and abuses related to smuggling of migrants also tend to go un- or underreported as migrants may be becoming aware of having been subjected to some kind of irregular procedures, and therefore fear arrest and deportation on one hand and retribution by smuggling gangs on the other. Smuggled migrants have told scores and scores of stories about the unscrupulous ways in which so-called agents have built their business on exploiting the migrants' vulnerabilities at every stage of their journey to a better life. Often, when these people return to their countries of origin, whether after successful or unsuccessful migration, have forgotten or - understandably- prefer not to give account any more of the horror that they have lived, as victims of smugglers.

Since 2003, the international community counts with a global instrument that promotes the implementation of measures to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants in countries of origin, transit and destination. The United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, otherwise known as the Migrants Protocol, has already been ratified by 120 countries and entered into force in 2003. The protocol is a comprehensive part of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), which entered into force in 2000 and has been ratified so far by 147 states.

The Convention focuses on the criminal aspect of the different forms of organized transnational crime, which reminds us of the global structures of various forms of organized crime, of which drug trafficking, the trafficking of human beings, the smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of firearms are considered the most important ones globally. The Migrants protocol focuses specifically on how - on one side - to combat the illegal, irregular action of criminal organized groups with regard to smuggling of migrants and on the other on how to restore and restitute the rights of the victims of smuggled migrants. The Convention and its protocols as such are very important acknowledgements of the international community on the importance that organized crimes such as smuggling of migrants have both at origin and at destination side and the action it requires collectively from all ends.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is a guardian of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and the three protocols. In this capacity, UNODC assists member states to improve and enhance their technical capacities to implement the protocol against smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air. One important step towards the development of this response is the identification of gaps and knowledge about migrant smuggling. Pursuant to this objective, our Office, the Regional Office for South Asia, based in Dehli, has commissioned two studies on smuggling of migrants from Punjab/Haryana and Tamil Nadu in India to Europe, particularly the UK. These studies were done in collaboration with the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi.

Both studies are field-based research studies which provide detailed assessments of the situation of irregular migration from these states. An examination of records of immigration cases and offences relevant government agencies in the public domain and data from other sources, as well as focus group studies were undertaken. The studies conclude by recommending a number of concrete actions aiming at reducing the vulnerabilities of young people at home, at protecting the interests of unskilled labor going overseas for employment including the reduction of exploitation of smuggled migrants.The Tamil Nadu report was launched earlier in the year. The launch of the Punjab report is planned in the coming month.

Today's consultation has the primary focus of bringing together the key stakeholders from the Indian Government, EU member countries, the state governments and experts to deliberate on some of the findings and recommendations from the 2 reports and to explore possible ways in which we can promote safe mobility and prevent irregular migration. At the end of our consultation, we hope and expect that we will have come to an agreement, through a moderated discussion on the steps that we can collectively take to address this important issue and develop a plan of action that we can collaborate on.

I wish us a successful consultation.

Thank you