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Migrant Smuggling Networks Outmanoeuvring Law Enforcement in the Asia-Pacific Region



Bangkok (Thailand), 12 July 2018
- Every country in the Asia-Pacific region is affected by migrant smuggling, and the ability of smuggling networks to adapt their methods is keeping them one step ahead of law enforcement, according to a new report launched today by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report, "Migrant Smuggling in Asia-Pacific, Vol. II" , analyses smuggling patterns and flows across the region and finds that, while the crime has shifted and changed appearance, it remains as potent as ever thanks to ongoing demand and the flexibility of criminal networks.

The report also outlines how smugglers are adopting increasingly innovative approaches - in many instances they are using indirect and complex routes to circumvent law enforcement efforts, often combining transit through countries that have loose visa requirements, and mixing travel by air, land and sea. To generate more business, some smugglers are also offering 'guarantees' of a successful journey, and payment on arrival at the end destination.

Considerable suffering also accompanies smuggling as the organized crime involved profit with little regard for the wellbeing of smuggled migrants who are left vulnerable to abuse, extortion and exploitation. The situation is also exacerbated by record numbers of minors moving on their own, often alongside allegations of physical and sexual abuse on the part of the smugglers.

"At a time when migration is at unprecedented levels and we see mass cross-border movements, including here in the region, migrant smuggling represents a serious threat to national and human security", remarked UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Jeremy Douglas. He added, "It is leaving exceptional numbers of people vulnerable to different forms of abuse, including human trafficking."

The cost of smuggling varies greatly depending on method and distance. Every year tens of thousands of migrants pay less than $US 100 to cross a border illegally in the Mekong, while others pay as much as $US 50,000 to be smuggled from Asia to North America. "Migrant smuggling remains a high-profit, low-risk crime," remarked Benjamin Smith, UNODC Regional Coordinator for Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking. "Authorities need to change the incentives for migrant smugglers and migrants. This means combining law enforcement and criminal justice action to dismantle smuggling networks with measures that promote legal migration."



Senior Indonesian Government official, Pak Dicky Komar, emphasised the importance of increased information and intelligence sharing. "In order for law enforcement entities to respond effectively, there is a need for increased cross-border collaboration and exchange of information," he said. "UNODC's migrant smuggling report is important for us to understand the challenge, but more needs to be done to address the smuggling of migrants from, to, through and within the Asia-Pacific region."

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on Smuggling of migrants.