On 3rd and 4th of August 2009, seventy participants from NGOs and relevant national institutions from Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco met to discuss the phenomenon of migrant smuggling in, through and from North African, and explore the role that NGOs can play in preventing migrant smuggling and raising awareness of the fact it is a crime that poses serious risks to the migrants concerned. Held in the framework of UNODC's Impact Programme, which aims to support States in West and North Africa to implement the Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Migrant Smuggling Protocol), the meeting was hosted by UNODC and the Egyptian National Council of Human Rights, and supported by funding provided by the European Union.
During the course of discussions, participants underlined the need for all responses to migrant smuggling to take a comprehensive approach that also addresses the underlying push and pull factors of irregular migration. In this context, adherence to international human rights standards was emphasized as crucial in all responses to migrant smuggling, alongside promotion of developmental assistance and the promotion of legal channels for migration. Participants agreed that the serious impact and threats that migrant smuggling poses to States and societies of countries of origin, transit an destination, necessitates cooperation between all affected states and the anti-smuggling actors therein. The key priority in this regard, was combating the threat posed to migrants themselves, many of whose human rights are violated in the course of the smuggling process, and many of whom lose their lives at the hands of profit-seeking smugglers.
NGOs were underlined as being crucial in the responding to migrant smuggling, not only in respect of their role in providing assistance to migrants, but also by virtue of their capacity to raise awareness of the general public and would-be migrants of the threats posed by migrant smuggling. Beyond this, the role that NGOs can play in raising awareness and building the capacity of States and other anti-migrant smuggling actors was also stressed.
To allow NGOs to perform this crucial function more effectively, it was suggested that more attention should be paid to implementing relevant provisions of the Migrant Smuggling Protocol supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC). In this respect, Article 15 of the Migrant Smuggling Protocol is particularly relevant in highlighting the need for State Parties to increase public awareness of the fact that migrant smuggling is a crime committed for profit, that often poses serious risks to the migrant concerned.
The recommendations that resulted from discussions stressed the need to establish a network of NGOs, which is not only functional on a regional level but also includes the active participation of NGOs based in countries of destination. Such a network would provide a platform to facilitate the exchange of expertise in the field of migrant smuggling prevention and ensure the effective assistance and protection of smuggled migrants.
The Egyptian National Council of Human Rights will submit the recommendations that emerged from the workshop to the Arab African Forum on Human Rights that will take place on 7 to 9 December 2009 in Cairo, Egypt, in cooperation with UNESCO. The Arab African Forum on Human Rights will discuss the issue of migration in the Arab world, and it is hoped that discussions there also address the rights-based aspects of migrant smuggling.
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