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Exploring modern preventive solutions to migrant smuggling

Bangkok (Thailand), 29 August 2014
- "Smugglers cooperate with business operators and corrupt border officers to make false border passes and identification documents for migrant workers," reported border community residents during a recent study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific within the framework of the PATROL initiative.

Between February and April 2014, UNODC conducted a qualitative survey of border communities in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Thailand to support law enforcement authorities in the protection of borders. It is essential to determine the drivers motivating residents to illegally enter a country despite the risks in order to develop and implement sustainable solutions to illicit cross-border activities.

Due to their in-depth knowledge of the culture and surroundings, local residents of border communities are commonly recruited by external brokers to facilitate the illegal movement of goods and people. The involvement of locals in this recruitment process exacerbates the susceptibility and willingness of other local residents to also participate in these criminal activities. Given their role - directly carrying out the action of illegally bringing goods and people across the borders - residents of border communities are more likely to be intercepted by law enforcement authorities while those persons who organize and mainly profit from the illegal operations remain unidentified.

By focusing on the unique challenges of border communities, UNODC hopes to explore preventive solutions to migrant smuggling beyond the traditional realm of law enforcement and crime suppression, such as the use of a community policing approach.

"This report comes at an opportune time," said Mr. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "Following the June 2014 mass return of Cambodian migrants working in Thailand, the Governments of Cambodia and Thailand both have been making significant efforts to improve the administrative processes for labor migration and therefore curbing cases of migrant smuggling. It is still too early to measure the impact of these efforts, but we hope that our assessment of border communities and our recommendations for future actions can support both Member States in making informed decisions."

Download the new UNODC Report Smuggling of Migrants: A risk assessment of border communities - Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand here.

To support Member States in the region in their efforts to strengthen border management, in 2013 UNODC launched the new Regional Programme for Southeast Asia, which includes specific set of activities to improve border protection.

The PATROL Project is supported by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection.