UNODC engages with UNHCR and relevant stakeholders in Cox’s Bazar to address human trafficking and migrant smuggling

Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh 27 March 2020 - UNODC, under the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants - Bangladesh ( GLO.ACT-Bangladesh) held consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and relevant government stakeholders in Cox’s Bazar from 24 to 25 February 2020. The objective of the consultations included identifying joint ventures in relation to addressing Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) under the framework of GLO.ACT-Bangladesh. 

Cox’s Bazar is considered as one of the hotspots for human trafficking in Bangladesh, and the Bay of Bengal is a major trafficking route by sea. According to a report1 of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), human trafficking is on the rise in the sprawling 6,000-acre refugee camp with more than 350 cases identified in 2019, approximately 15% of which involved children. Therefore, GLO.ACT-Bangladesh has identified Cox’s Bazar as one of its pilot regions outside of Dhaka as part of the project’s implementation strategy. 

During the 3rd national GLO.ACT consultation held in Bangladesh in January 2020, UNODC met with the UNHCR Protection Team in Dhaka. One of the major discussion points was to explore the scope of a potential partnership with UNHCR and the possibility of designing a joint initiative to provide capacitybuilding to the criminal justice actors in the Cox’s Bazar district. To further the discussion, UNHCR proposed a mission to Cox’s Bazar to coordinate with their Cox’s Bazar-based legal protection team. UNODC held further meetings with the UNHCR Cox’s Bazar Team, the UNDP Research and Survey Analysis team, and the Additional Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner. During the meetings, GLO.ACT provided an overview of UNODC’s mandates and explained the GLO.ACT-Bangladesh project and emphasized the work to be undertaken as part of capacity-building for criminal justice actors. UNHCR outlined their existing protection response in Cox’s Bazar including on TIP. In addition to possible collaboration with GLO.ACT-Bangladesh in the context of its capacity-building component, UNHCR also proposed to engage under the project’s policy and strategy component. 

UNHCR also facilitated a visit to a refugee camp for the GLO.ACT-Bangladesh team to show the increased vulnerability of refugees to becoming victims of human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The visit highlighted the risks faced by the refugees and emphasized the critical need to raise awareness and strengthen the capacities of law enforcement in Cox’s Bazar to address TIP and SOM in order to protect the victims and those who are most at risk. 

The consultation led to the following action points being agreed: 

  • The identification of concrete activities, including assigning roles and responsibilities to work jointly to address TIP and SOM in Cox’s Bazar under the framework of GLO.ACT-Bangladesh; 

  • To provide joint UNHCR-UNODC capacity-building to criminal justice actors, including prosecutors, judges, investigators, police, Border Guard Bangladesh, Coast Guard, Ansar-VDP, Special Branch, and Detective Branch of Bangladesh Police working in Cox’s Bazar and refugee camps; 

  • To provide a Training of Trainers to the UNHCR pool of trainers, who will share the learnings with relevant actors including camp protection focal points, lawyers of NGOs, and officials of the relevant humanitarian agencies; 

  • To include UNODC as member of the inter-agency Technical Working Group on CounterTrafficking based in Cox’s Bazar which is co-chaired by UNHCR and IOM; 

  • To discuss with UNDP Cox’s Bazar team future collaboration with UNODC on conducting research in the region on issues relating to transnational organized crime, including TIP and SOM; and 

  • To familiarize with specific risks faced by the refugees in the camps related to human trafficking and migrant smuggling and to properly ascertain the capacity-building needs for the law enforcement agencies. 

It is expected that this collaboration between UN agencies (UNODC, UNHCR and UNDP) and other relevant stakeholders in Cox’s Bazar will enhance the capacity and understanding of criminal justice practitioners to successfully combat TIP and SOM. Furthermore, it will enable them to better assist and protect victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants. 

The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants - Bangladesh (GLO.ACT - Bangladesh) is a joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). GLO.ACT-Bangladesh builds on a global community of practice set in motion in GLO.ACT 2015-2019 in 13 partner countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.  

Through targeted, innovative and demand-driven interventions, the GLO.ACT aims to support the Government of Bangladesh and civil society organizations to more effectively fight the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling across the country. The project works on developing evidence-based information on trafficking and smuggling patterns and trends, legislative review and harmonization, capability development of criminal justice actors, and international cooperation. The project also provides direct assistance to victims of human trafficking and migrants in vulnerable situations through the strengthening of identification, referral, and protection mechanisms. 

The project is funded by the European Union 


For more information, please contact: 

Mahdy Hassan