India: GoI, European Union & UNODC consultation on Promoting Safe Mobility and Preventing Irregular Migration

  Human mobility and its management are intrinsically linked to human security and the welfare of migrants. People migrate to other countries for better economic opportunities. As a major country of origin and destination, India is a key player in international migration. It is estimated that 25 million Indians are overseas and that India is also home to an estimated 20 million immigrants, many of them irregular migrants.

In a rapidly globalizing world, legal and careful migration is becoming more complex. Lack of effective management of migration leads to irregular migration like the smuggling of migrants which is a serious crime. This crime is handled and controlled by transnational organized crime syndicates. Violations and abuses of smuggled 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.

In view of the fact that irregular migration is a complex phenomenon affecting the countries of origin, transit and destination, there is a need for close cooperation between the affected countries. These problems need to be addressed in a collaborative and comprehensive way, where international cooperation becomes an essential prerequisite to promote safer mobility and prevent smuggling of migrants. It is with this view that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) convened the consultation on promoting safe mobility and preventing irregular migration together with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India and with the EU member states as engaged partners in this process on 11 August 2009 in New Delhi, India.

An important aspect of the workshop was to look at the criminal aspect of migration, like smuggling of migrants, and the existing international instruments to support national efforts in disrupting migrant smuggling. The international community has developed global instruments that promote 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 entered into force in 2003. The UNODC 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 ai r.

One important step by UNODC towards the development of this response is commissioning two studies abo ut mig rant smuggling from Punjab/Haryana and Tamil Nadu in India to Europe, particularly the UK. The gaps and detailed assessments of the situation of irregular migration from these field-based research studies, were shared with the participants. More importantly, 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 consultation presented an opportunity to deliberate, identify the problems, share experiences, discuss major challenges and explore areas of mutual cooperation towards building a necessary policy environment and facilitate operational measures to counter this matter of global concern. In recognition of the many benefits to be gained from such engagements, this workshop will also continue the dialogue on how best to leverage the contributions by the stakeholders involved.

To read more about UNODC's role in preventing smuggling of migrants in India please click on "Speech by Cristina Albertin on 'Promoting Safe Mobility and Preventing Smuggling of Migrants'.