The UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific launched the Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct (VRS-MSRC) in support of the Bali Process on Tuesday, 16 July 2013. The VRS-MSRC is an internet-based, secure system where state authorities can collect and share migrant smuggling data. To date, authorities from 16 states and territories have already confirmed their participation, including: Australia, Cambodia, France, Hong Kong (SAR), Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Maldives, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Islands, Pakistan, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Turkey and the United States of America.
“Migrant smuggling is a high-profit, low-risk business. In particular those criminals, who organize and profit from it, face very limited risks of detection and punishment,” says Mr. Sebastian Baumeister, UNODC Expert and Analyst on Migrant Smuggling based in Bangkok at the Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “Migrant smuggling puts migrants at risk of abuse, exploitation and human trafficking – and at the risk of losing their lives. It is a deadly business.”
“Migrant smuggling within, through and to the regions covered by the Bali Process also poses serious challenges to the countries of origin, transit and destination and their societies, as our recent UNODC report, Transnational Organized Crime in East Asia and the Pacific – A Threat Assessment, noted,” pointed out Mr. Baumeister.
Designed to inform strategic analysis and policy development at inter-regional, regional, and national levels, the VRS-MSRC seeks to establish non-nominal quantitative and qualitative data on migrant smuggling and irregular migration. Key data include: size and geographical directions of flows; major routes used; fees paid; transportation and methods used; profiles of irregular and smuggled migrants; and migrant smuggler profiles .
The VRS-MSRC was developed by UNODC in close cooperation with law enforcement authorities from countries in Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America in response to the 4th Bali Process Ministerial Conference in March 2011. In late 2012, 12 countries participated in a test run of the system.
Following this, Ministers at the 5th Bali Process Ministerial Conference on 2 April 2013, “encouraged members to participate in the VRS-MSRC to strengthen its value as an information database to enhance and better inform policy development in response to migrant smuggling.”
Under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementing Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, States are required to collect, exchange, and analyze information on migrant smuggling, and to monitor policies and assess their effectiveness.
The VRS-MSRC helps States fulfill these responsibilities. It helps members identify trends and develop policies so they can prevent and combat migrant smuggling. It includes an online search mechanism so members can identify emerging patterns in other countries and facilitate targeted cooperation with members experiencing similar trends.
Forging sustainable solutions in response to migrant smuggling is a tremendous challenge. One-sided interventions simply run the risk of compounding or displacing the problem.
“Migrant smuggling is transnational in nature; curbing it requires truly multilateral action,” says Mr. Baumeister. “Cooperation among all countries concerned and comprehensive approaches are crucial. Building evidence-based knowledge on migrant smuggling and exchanging information between states creates trust and cooperation among nations and leads to the effective application of consistent policies.”