Vienna, Austria – 8 June 2021 – “We see stories of women, men and children perishing in the sea. We see these tragedies in all regions of the world. We know that migrant smuggling is a complex issue, legally, factually and morally. Moreover, while we have two legal frameworks and two distinct crimes, these do often intersect,” said Aimée Comrie, Project Coordinator for the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT-Asia and the Middle East) during the opening segment of an expert discussion on migrant smuggling facilitated by GLO.ACT on 26 May 2021 for members of its Women’s Network.
The Network is an active community of female officials and male champions of women’s rights working in policy making, the justice sector, law enforcement, civil society and other relevant local entities and was constituted to help address the gender dimension of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM), and severe underrepresentation of women working in and/or leading institutions responding to both crimes.
During the webinar on 26 May 2021, experts, therefore, addressed the dilemmas that practitioners grapple with on the ground when identifying, investigating and prosecuting migrant smuggling, particularly when the crime intersects with TIP. The event, moderated by Fatemeh Javani, Head of Department, Ministry of Interior, Department for International Organizations, I.R. Iran, provided practitioners with the tools to respond effectively to migrant smuggling.
While discussing the internal legal frameworks, Samantha Munadowafa, GLO.ACT Policy Lead, outlined the differences between TIP and SOM and touched upon the issue of victimization: “Exploitation is not an element of smuggling of migrants while for trafficking in persons exploitation is a purpose.” Unlike trafficked persons, smuggled migrants are not “victims” under the UN Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants. However, smuggled migrants are highly vulnerable to becoming victims of various forms of exploitation.
Martin Hemmi, Associate Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer at UNODC, spoke about recent research by UNODC on aggravated forms of smuggling and its gender dimension. He explained that "Smuggling of a child, pregnant or disabled person is automatically a case of aggravated smuggling" and that the research shows that "female victims are coerced into sexual services as a form of paying for the smuggling fee."
To ensure that the discussion was grounded in relevant national contexts, practitioners from GLO.ACT partner countries also shared their experience in addressing migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
Focusing in more detail on how migrant smuggling can drift into human trafficking and other forms of exploitation, Martin Reeve, GLO.ACT Law Enforcement Adviser elaborated on several examples where smuggled migrants became victims of trafficking, while Marika McAdam, UNODC consultant, explained that the financial and material element gives smuggling of migrants its character. She went on to say, "It is the equivalent of what exploitation does for trafficking in persons."
Upon the webinar's conclusion, the 47 participants (29 female; 18 male) completed a survey to enable the GLO.ACT team to understand how they plan to use the newly acquired knowledge in their daily work.
This project is funded by the European Union.
To find out more about the Women’s Network and GLO.ACT, please check: