Launch of the UNODC Regional Strategy against human trafficking and migrant smuggling

In the first half of 2015, almost 2,000 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach European coasts. According to the authorities in Niger, 4,000 to 5,000 migrants transit through their country each week in a bid to reach the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Most of these migrants pay large sums of money to organized crime networks exploiting their vulnerability. UNODC estimates that migrant smugglers located on the West Africa - Europe axis generate profits amounting to at least USD 150 million per year.

Thousands of West and Central African citizens are also trafficked every year for sexual exploitation, forced labour, organ trafficking, forced child begging or recruitment of child soldiers. Human trafficking worldwide generates billions of dollars in profits each year.

West and Central Africa is a region of ​​origin, transit and destination for victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants. Due to this reason, UNODC has developed a detailed and comprehensive Regional Strategy to support Member States in dismantling criminal networks while at the same time protecting victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants. Launched on Tuesday 25 August in Dakar, the Strategy covers the 22 African countries under the UNODC Regional Office's mandate and articulates itself around the following:

  • Improving the national and regional coordination and cooperation;
  • Enhancing up-to-date information and data;
  • Strengthening legal frameworks and public policies;
  • Capacity building of criminal justice system stakeholders;
  • Providing support to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants;
  • Raising awareness.
Panelists at the launch of the Regional Strategy

A statement made by UNODC Executive Director Mr Yury Fedotov for the launch of the Strategy expressed regret at the "low conviction rate [which] reflects the impunity still associated with these crimes" and called for a "global synergy between stakeholders, whether they were members of governments, parliamentarians, prosecutors or even representatives from the civil society and private sector."

UNODC Regional Representative, Mr Pierre Lapaque, highlighted the consultation process undertaken prior to designing the Strategy, reflected by the presence of high-level representatives from regional institutions, other UN agencies, African civil society, and diplomatic representations from West and Central African Member States. Among them were the Representative of the UN Coordination System in Senegal and UN Women Regional Director, Ms Diana Ofwona, the UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, Ms Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Ms Fatimata Dia Sow, and the representative of the ECCAS Secretary General Mr Pierre Athomo N'Dong.

UNODC Regional Representative Mr Pierre Lapaque

As host country, Senegal was represented by the Ministry of Interior's Secretary General Mr. Cissé Cheikou and by the Permanent Secretary of the Taskforce against human trafficking Mr. Mody Ndiaye. The Senegalese singer Comba Gawlo Seck was also present to raise awareness through a charity concert.

Coumba Gawlo Seck at the launch ceremony

Overall, more than 160 participants attended the meeting, including 70 journalists from local and international media. Former migrants and victims of human trafficking, whose testimonies were featured in a 15 minute film projected at the event, were also present.

Through its Dakar office, UNODC regularly supports national and regional efforts against human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The organization helps its West and Central African Member States produce and implement laws and strategies in line with the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its related protocols.

For more information:

UNODC Regional Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in West and Central Africa

Definitions and tools on human trafficking and migrant smuggling

2016 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons

UNODC and the story of Anna and Precious