UN Calls On States To Address Trafficking And Smuggling In Light Of New Challenges In Asia-Pacific

Bangkok – In wake of the Bali Process celebrating its 20th anniversary, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN’S Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have called on the States involved in the Bali Process to strengthen and enhance cooperation among members to effectively address the growing scope of transnational criminality in Southeast Asia, including human trafficking, people smuggling and issues of safety of life at sea.  

The three agencies extended their support to the forum in tackling common issues – affecting its member states in the region and beyond.

We have made six joint recommendations at this week’s senior officials gathering in Bali that concluded today (6 December 2022), ahead of next year’s ministerial meeting. 

Our joint call and recommendations come at a time when post Covid- 19 pandemic brought new challenges, including new forms of trafficking, such as trafficking to commit cybercrimes which is becoming a substantial threat to the region. The increasing incidence of recruitment by traffickers through online scams highlights the urgent need to engage Big Tech in helping prevent unscrupulous criminals from profiting from modern slavery.

Additionally, humanitarian partners are observing a dramatic increase in the number of people attempting perilous crossings of the Andaman Sea this year. Nearly 2,000 people have travelled by sea from January to November 2022 compared to only 287 in 2021, a more than sixfold increase.

We are asking members to build the capacity of States to initiate proactive and joint investigations of criminal networks involved in transnational organized crimes. It is imperative to assist states to maintain a focus on victim protection and vulnerable population when responding to human trafficking and people smuggling.

We urge states to implement Bali Process mechanisms to address safety of life at sea. Ensure search and rescue, safe disembarkation and identification of protection needs including the need for asylum and enable access to essential services.

Agencies are calling to address issues of smuggling and trafficking by facilitating a dialogue on understanding the factors that forces desperate people to resort to perilous journeys and exploitation. This will enable a better understanding of trends and required solutions.

We are looking for improved understanding and coherence between the different work streams under the Bali Process and strengthened ownership by the member states of the platform.

We encourage States to build partnerships with the private sector to address root causes of trafficking and smuggling in line with international labour and human rights standards.

IOM, UNHCR and UNODC have reaffirmed our support to States across the region to provide immediate assistance to victims of trafficking, asylum-seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants, as well as to strengthen the broader response capacity to respond to irregular movements.

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