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Experts meet to discuss Middle East migrant smuggling

Trafficking issue echoes at first GCC working group on border controls in Abu Dhabi

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The smuggling of migrants is by nature a transnational crime fast taking on global proportions, with the criminals involved working in organised networks and a large number of countries affected by it, experts taking part at a two-day conference said on Monday.

Speaking at the first GCC working group on effective border and ports controls being held in Abu Dhabi under the theme ‘Strengthening the capacities of GCC countries to combat illegal and irregular migration: Threat assessment and risk analysis,’ Hatem Ali, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) told Gulf News: “Controlling borders is no more a single effort but rather it is a collective effort that requires cooperation and partnership as migrant smuggling remains a significant challenge throughout the region.”

Sebastian Baumeister, a UNODC expert, said: “Abuse of legal entry channels and the misuse of legal travel documents obtained by fraudulent means continue to play an important role in facilitating migrant smuggling. Smuggled and irregular migrants are exposed to considerable danger during the smuggling process, and are often left vulnerable to human trafficking on reaching their destination.”

Baumeister stressed that the main irregular migration destinations are the Middle East, Europe, North America and Australia with the victims either being people from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh travelling by land or sea to the GCC region or people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other parts of Africa undertaking perilous boat journeys to Yemen, Oman and to the GCC states.

“Smuggled migrants are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Their safety and even their lives are often put at risk: they may suffocate in containers, perish in deserts or drown at sea while being smuggled by profit-seeking criminals who treat them as goods,” Baumeister said.

“The smuggling of migrants is the facilitation of crossing borders illegally or residing illegally in another country with the aim of making a financial or other material profit. This crime is often perpetrated by organised criminal networks, which seize the opportunity to make large profits from an illicit activity involving little risk of detection,” he added.

The UNODC helps countries to implement the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol and to enact laws criminalising involvement in the smuggling of migrants and on training law enforcement officers and prosecutors from around the world.

A report by UNODC shows that the absence or inadequacy of national legislation to address the smuggling of migrants in many parts of the world often means that people smugglers continue to commit the crime with little fear of being brought to justice.