UNODC, Pakistan join hands to combat smuggling of migrants

Regional conference will discuss challenges of smuggling migrants in Islamabad on April 26-27.

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) are hosting a regional conference in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU) to discuss the challenges of smuggling migrants on April 26-27 at Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Migrant smuggling is a crime with high profits and a low risk of punishment for the criminals involved. Smugglers sell illegal and dangerous services to desperate people and are often part of a well-organized, multinational network. International cooperation is vital to combat this crime.

“This regional cooperation workshop constitutes a veritable part of our desire to benefit from the perspectives, expertise, as well as cooperation of our regional and international partners. The international community needs a “comprehensive approach” that helps safe, orderly and regular migration on the one hand while addressing the negative impacts of irregular migration on the other” said Foreign Secretary Syrus Sajjad Qazi.

“Recent incidents, including the tragic event where 350 Pakistanis were on board a packed trawler that capsized off southern Greece on 14 June 2023, are a stark reminder of the urgent need for increased collaboration among nations to effectively address this complex crime,” said Jeremy Milsom, UNODC representative in Pakistan.

The Migration Management and Migrant Protection in Selected Silk Route Countries project is funded by the European Union and implemented in the framework of the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO ACT). It will explore mechanisms to improve information-sharing between countries and emphasize victim-centered approaches to combat migrant smuggling.

Deputy Head of the EU Delegation Philipp Gross said: “The importance of regional cooperation cannot be overstated in addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Routes originating in Pakistan, traversing through Iran and Türkiye, and ultimately reaching the European Union, serve as critical pathways for irregular migration. Formal and informal cooperation mechanisms along these routes are essential to disrupt criminal networks, dismantle smuggling rings and protect vulnerable migrants.

The European Union launched the Global Alliance to Counter Migrant Smuggling in November 2023, to strengthen international cooperation to prevent and respond to migrant smuggling, and to provide alternatives to irregular migration. Today’s regional conference is a primary example of key countries strengthening cooperation along a whole-of-route approach to counter this crime,

In parallel, consistently addressing the root causes of irregular migration, such as poverty and conflict, remains imperative to deter people from embarking on perilous journeys. The EU remains committed to support Pakistan and regional partners towards these shared objectives.”

Participants will discuss common challenges faced by countries, best practices in border security and investigations, and discuss the possibility of establishment of a regional task force.

 “It shouldn’t take tragedies to bring us all together,” Milsom added. “The support of the European Union has led to significant milestones in the fight against migrant smuggling worldwide. This event is a unique opportunity.”

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