Protection of Smuggled Migrants High on the Agenda at UN Forum

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Vienna (Austria), 22 April 2021 — Migrant smuggling is a global and profitable crime with a high demand and a low risk of detection and punishment for the criminals involved.

Smugglers conduct their activities with little or no regard for the safety and dignity of the people they illegally transport over national borders.

Journeys are often long and dangerous and the conditions inhumane. Smuggled migrants constantly face threats of violence, abuse and even death.

This May, at the thirtieth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), representatives from UN Member States will discuss how to effectively counter migrant smuggling while protecting the rights of the smuggled migrants.

“The UN Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants, which has to date been ratified by 150 parties, is the world’s leading instrument to comprehensively address migrant smuggling,” says Ilias Chatzis, Chief of the Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  

“It does not exclusively promote a law enforcement approach but also clearly underscores the need to treat smuggled migrants humanely with full protection of their rights and provide appropriate assistance when their lives or safety are endangered as a result of being smuggled,” he adds.

The CCPCJ proceedings will be supported by two extensive guides, prepared by UNODC, which present background information on migrant smuggling trends, the profiles of the smugglers and the smuggled migrants themselves.

They include research on the dangers of migrant smuggling, which reveals that every year thousands of migrants die along smuggling routes, while others are subjected to various forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.

The guides also cover the impact of COVID-19 on migration, how methods and routes used by the criminal networks are changing and how the smuggled migrants are dangerously exposed to the virus with little access to healthcare.

Furthermore, they provide concrete recommendations that countries could consider to address both the humanitarian as well as the criminal justice aspects of migrant smuggling. 

“For over 20 years, UNODC has been supporting countries to tackle migrant smuggling, and we increasingly see the need to ensure that the protection of the smuggled migrants is an integral component in crime prevention and criminal justice responses,” says Ilias Chatzis.

The CCPCJ will take place in Vienna, Austria and online from the 17th to the 21st of May.

It offers countries a forum for exchanging expertise, experience and information in order to develop national and international strategies and identify priorities for combatting crime.