Is there such a thing as a victim of smuggling?

 

Is there such a thing as a victim of smuggling? No, and here’s why: First, let’s remind everyone what smuggling is:

“Smuggling of migrants” is defined as the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident – United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Smuggling of Migrants Protocol), supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

So basically, smuggling is a violation of a country’s migration policy. It is an illegal border crossing organized by someone else – the smuggler – for a price. This means that the victim of the crime of smuggling, technically speaking, is the state, not the migrant who pays for this “service”.

Does this mean smuggling harms no one? Or that migrants who are smuggled do not suffer abuse and violence?

Absolutely not. We know that many migrants suffer assault, rape, extortion and a range of other abuses while being smuggled. Which means those migrants may be victims of other crimes, not of the smuggling itself.

Why do some actors continue to refer to “victims” of smuggling?

Sometimes, this terminology is used (despite not being technically correct), to recognize the high levels of vulnerability faced by some of the migrants who pay smugglers, which is abused by the smuggling rings. The fact that some migrants feel they have no other choice but to face the danger and risks of a smuggling process is sometimes related to inequalities, lack of opportunities, poverty, discrimination and other factors, which can be recognized in some cases as structural violence. Thus, the combination of the other crimes suffered by some smuggled migrants along the route together with the high levels of vulnerability that lead to them paying to be smuggled is sometimes highlighted through the use of the word “victim”.

If we’re not in a legal context, why not call them “victims” of smuggling? What’s the harm?

Because many smuggled migrants are victims of other crimes and need assistance, it is important to be clear in our terminology. It is essential to be able to find those smuggled migrants who are in need of support, assistance and protection, because they have suffered rape, extortion, or some other specific crime. If some anti-smuggling actors refer to all smuggled migrants as “victims” while others do not recognize that some migrants who use smugglers are victims of related crimes, neither group will effectively be able to screen and support those who actually need help.

Our goal must be to recognize the violence and abuse that takes place in the context of smuggling, and find ways to prevent and respond to it.

More resources on smuggling of migrants:

 

 

   About the author:

Rosilyne Borland is the IOM Senior Regional Thematic Specialist on Migrant Assistance at the Regional Office for Central America, North America, and the Caribbean. She has 14 years’ experience in international and has specialized on issues related to the human rights of migrants, particularly trafficking in persons and health, and return migration. Rosilyne holds a Master’s degree in International Human Development from the School of International service of American University. 

 


Solutions to address the labor exploitation of migrant populations in Central America

Solutions to address the labor exploitation of migrant populations in Central America
Categoria: Labour Migration
Autor: Guest Contributor

Migrants face different challenges when they settle in their destination countries, including their entry into the labor force. Studies such as CEPAL (link in Spanish) indicate that irregular migrants are more likely to experience poor working conditions and be employed in low-skilled jobs. Including those who obtain a regular status, in some countries, migrants receive salaries below the average of nationals.

To better understand the labor conditions of migrants in Central America, the Central American Integration System (SICA), in conjunction with IOM and UNHCR, developed a baseline study on migration and displacement in the SICA region (link in Spanish), where they are addressed, among other issues, labor discrimination. The study indicates as a relevant finding that labor exploitation is often not conceptualized as a violation of human rights, but only as an administrative offense, which circumvents the corresponding penalty and facilitates the perpetuation of the issue.

According to the study, another consequence of the precarious work for most migrants in the region is the lack of access to social security. One the one hand, this is due to the economic cost involved, as they first need to obtain a regular immigration status which entails certain expenses. On the other hand, the more ‘informal’ that their employment is, the less likely it is to be connect to social security benefits.

The legislation and working conditions of people vary from country to country. To address the challenges of labor migration, the study by SICA, IOM and UNHCR (link in Spanish) proposes several courses of action so that states can collaboratively and comprehensively address the integration of this type of migratory flow including irregular migration, labor discrimination, social security and regional integration. Some of the actions recommended by the study are:

To discourage irregular labor migration

• Support countries in ratifying the ILO Migration for Employment Convention (No. 97) and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143), as well as adopting the ILO Migration Statistics Recommendations (No. 19).

• Analyze national labor markets to identify areas with deficits or surpluses of trained personnel.

• Strengthen the collection and exchange of information on the needs of labor markets, with approved regional variables.

 

To address labor discrimination

• Implement policies against discrimination and xenophobia.

• Strengthen instruments to ensure the protection of the rights of migrant workers.

• Promote mechanisms of social, labor, and cultural integration of migrants in destination countries.

 

To facilitate access to social security and the protection of migrants

• Support countries in the ratification of the Multilateral Social Security Agreement (link in Spanish).

• Promote internal legislation that protects migrants’ rights to social security.

• Design social security schemes that respond to the specific needs of migrants and their families.

 

To facilitate regional integration of labor migration

• Facilitate the exchange of labor migration information between countries in the region.

• Promote mechanisms (or include spaces in existing mobility agreements) that allow intra-regional labor mobility.

 

In addition to these key actions, the study includes contributions to address labor discrimination specifically with indigenous migrants and LGBTI + populations, who may experience a greater precariousness in their working conditions. This information can be accessed via this link (in Spanish).