Governments and Civil Organizations Exchange Techniques to Combat Migrants Smuggling in Times of COVID-19

Date Publish: 

San José - The Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are organizing the Regional Technical Exchange on Migrant Trafficking webinar series, with the aim of strengthening police and judicial bodies in this area. During four sessions that will take place virtually from Tuesday 8 to Friday 11 September, representatives of public ministries and judicial institutions, migration authorities and research units of RCM member countries will present good regional practices in preventing and combating the illegal trafficking of migrants, particularly on investigation techniques and police intelligence and cross-border judicial cooperation.

These topics are included in the Work Plan on Migrant Smuggling 2019-2025, developed with the technical support of IOM and UNODC. The approved Plan has an implementation period of five years, and although it is non-binding in nature, it shows the existence of commitment and political will on the part of the States to coordinate efforts in the fight against this crime.

Smuggling of migrants is presented as a profitable activity for traffickers. There is no consensus regarding the estimated number of migrants who are smuggled worldwide, given their clandestine nature. However, it is believed that at least 2.5 million people were subjected to this crime, and this generated between 5.5 and 7 billion dollars in profits for traffickers in 2016 according to figures from the Global Study of our Office mentioned Melissa Flynn, Director of Programs and Operations of the UNODC Regional Office for Central America and the Caribbean.

"Due to the complexity of the issue, IOM proposes a comprehensive approach to this crime based on providing protection and assistance to migrants who are victims of related crimes; addressing the causes of migrant trafficking; building the capacity of States to eradicate the activities of migrant traffickers; and promoting research and data collection on migrant trafficking," added Michele Klein-Solomon, IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

The inauguration of the cycle was also attended by Raquel Vargas Jaubert, Director General of Migration and Aliens of Costa Rica, representing the Pro-Tempore Presidency of the RCM.

The importance of the issue of illegal trafficking of migrants and the behavior it has in the region, its growing trend and the complexity that characterizes it, make it an issue of great relevance within the RCM. Investigation and police intelligence techniques in addressing migrant smuggling must be adapted to changes in the actions of individual or collective smugglers. This is a constant challenge in the construction of new procedures and working methods that are feasible, effective and in accordance with the national and international legal system. In addition, judicial cooperation between countries can play a key role in the prevention and prosecution of cases. The current context of COVID-19 presents particular challenges that require new solutions based on collaboration.

This series of webinars provides a space for dialogue on these issues and for establishing mechanisms to facilitate their implementation. At the same time, it allows for the sharing of good practices and lessons learned in the fight against migrant smuggling in RCM Member Countries. Representatives of UNODC, INTERPOL, IOM and other organizations present in this space different tools for investigation techniques and police intelligence and cross-border judicial cooperation.

This initiative is supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It is implemented in the framework of IOM's Regional Program on Migration Mesoamerica- The Caribbean, financed by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees. The event is open only to participants accredited by the Member Countries of the RCM.

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IOM emphasizes the need for holistic approaches to reception and reintegration of returnees to the Caribbean at capacity-building sessions

Date Publish: 
27 / 08 / 2020

Georgetown - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently completed its training workshop Reception and Reintegration of Forced Returnees in the Caribbean. The trainings were held online and in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. This workshop was designed to build the capacity of migration officials in the Caribbean to manage the reception and reintegration processes of persons forced to return to the region. The workshop included representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.   

In his opening remarks, IOM Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean and Chief of Mission for Guyana, Robert Natiello, explained that migration is a cross-cutting issue that requires  several levels of cooperation for its management. According to Natiello, migrants who were forced to return to the region can often end up in vulnerable situations due to a lack of support networks upon returning and access to social welfare systems.  

“Referral networks […] need to have the involvement of many actors, both government actors but also civil society actors, NGOs, churches, and of course family members and friends,” said Natiello. He explained that this workshop was designed to address these reintegration systems for forced returnees while developing the capacity of governments to respond.  

Meanwhile, Executive Director of CARICOM IMPACS, Lt. Col. Michael Jones emphasized that the forced return of migrants to the region has had far reaching social implications on the development and national security of the region. ED Jones identified several key areas of implementation that needed to be enhanced to ensure the orderly reintegration of returning migrants such as, enhanced information sharing from key CARICOM Members States, standardization of procedures, public education, and social assistance programmes.  

ED Jones also highlighted the importance for developing strategies to improve data management. He further noted that 4,323 involuntary return of migrants were registered in the region in 2018, and that this data was collected from only seven Caribbean countries. “The implementation of these proper data collection and information sharing can help to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of involuntary return migrants into society,” explained ED Jones.  

Additionally, Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade, Hon. E.P. Chet Green noted that the workshop was an opportunity to form a “collective spirit” among participants to accept and address the realities of the processes involved in the reception and reintegration of forced returnees in the region. Minister Green also challenged participants to critically engage with all the factors surrounding the involuntary return of migrants, so that they could determine clear strategies and workable solutions while bearing in mind the similarities and differences of Caribbean societies. He also highlighted the importance of receiving such training during this time so that countries can be equipped to also receive voluntary returnees to the region, following the impact of the novel coronavirus in their countries of residence.  

This training spanned two weeks, with three live online sessions that included participant and expert presentations. Expert presenters included IOM specialists Rosilyne Borland, and Claudette Walls, who focused on the human rights dimension of migration, and the implementation of good practices in reintegration, respectively. Meanwhile, migration specialist, Fabio Jimenez, also presented on the IOM, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees Policy Guide on Entrepreneurship, which covered the economic benefits of reintegration. Participants were trained to recognize that reintegration strategies must take into consideration the economic, social, and psycho-social realities that forced returnees face when returning to the region. The course also shared material that examined the real-life challenges that reintegration can have on communities and discussed ways through which these can be overcome to minimize rates of recidivism in the region.  

Upon the completion of the course, participants were awarded certificates of participation from IOM. Additionally, a final report on the workshop, including priorities, conclusions and recommendations will be prepared and shared to participating agencies. This workshop is part of IOM Regional Program on Migration - Mesoamerica & the Caribbean, funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration.