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Macro-perspective in addressing smuggling of migrants

As discussed in other modules (especially Module 5), smuggling of migrants is a phenomenon with multiple and complex root causes. This is the main reason why an exclusively criminal law response will not suffice to prevent and suppress migrant smuggling. Rather, an effective approach to combat smuggling requires addressing its root causes (which often coincide with the causes of irregular migration more generally), which drive demand for smugglers' services (see Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration). The economic, social and political motivations of smuggled migrants must be addressed. As such, it is important to adopt a macro-perspective when designing responses to counter migrant smuggling. It is by promoting durable peace, political stability, human security and sustainable development that migrant smuggling may be suppressed in the long-term (see also Betts, 2013).

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development

On 25 September 2015, United Nations Member States adopted the ' Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ', with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is intended to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity, peace and freedom to all. It affirms explicitly that "there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development". It recognizes peace, rule of law, human rights, development and equality as integral components of a comprehensive framework. Reducing conflict, crime, violence, discrimination and ensuring inclusion and good governance are key elements of peoples' well-being and are essential for securing sustainable development ( UNODC and the Sustainable Development Goals ).

Each SDG has specific targets to be achieved by 2030. For the SDGs to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector and civil society. The following SDGs are of particular relevance in the endeavour to prevent and combat smuggling of migrants (in the context of root causes in countries of origin and demand for cheap labour in destination countries):

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SDG 8 - Decent work and economic growth

Target 8.7 - Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

Target 8.8 - Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

SDG 8 emphasizes the importance of improving economic growth and access for all to opportunities that allow individuals to achieve adequate standards of living. While responsibility for meeting this Goal primarily lies with individual States, international assistance and cooperation are also integral. SDG 8 further highlights the responsibility of destination countries to ensure proper regulation of their labour markets so that the rights of irregular migrants, including smuggled migrants, are ensured and respected, and avenues of exploitation closed. By adopting a consistent multidisciplinary approach to smuggling of migrants, States will be taking steps towards achieving SDG 8.

Target 8.7 is included here because of the nexus one often sees between smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons. Smuggled migrants may easily become victims of trafficking in certain situations, while trafficked persons may also be smuggled. This matter will be addressed further in Module 11.

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SDG 10 - Reduce inequalities

Target 10.7 - Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.

Target 10.8 - Encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their national plans and programs.

SDG 10 promotes reduction of inequalities within and between States. Reinforcing safe and regular migration is essential in decreasing profits for migrant smugglers. Because of the root causes of irregular migration (and smuggling of migrants in particular), these goals may only succeed if supported by inclusive and comprehensive development strategies. In addition, it is essential to reinforce States' capacity to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants, ensure protection of and respect for smuggled migrants' rights and promote cooperation between States.

The United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants) promote cooperation and joint efforts to prevent and combat smuggling of migrants. Private actors and civil society have a relevant role to play in this regard; for example, by disseminating information on migrant smuggling and its dangers, undertaking education initiatives and providing protection and assistance to migrants.

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SDG 16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Target 16.1 - Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere.

Target 16.2 - End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.

Target 16.3 - Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.

Target 16.4 - By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.

Target 16.5 - Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms.

Target 16.6 - Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.

Target 16.7 - Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

Target 16.A - Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.

SDG 16 focuses on justice, the rule of law and strong institutions. This, however, does not mean that non-justice actors have no contribution to make. As explained in Module 3 and in this Module 4, the multidisciplinary approach relies on robust collaboration between various stakeholders. SDG 16 promotes normative, analytical and operational assistance in and between States with the purpose of strengthening the effectiveness, fairness and accountability of criminal justice institutions in tackling organized crime, including smuggling of migrants and other related crimes (such as corruption). It further relies on the strengthening of human rights, including smuggled migrants' rights, through effective, fair and humane justice systems. UNTOC contains provisions for enhancing anti-money laundering legal frameworks and developing capacities of national agencies to investigate money-laundering, disrupt illicit financial flows and support the recovery of stolen assets. Each of these actions applies to migrant smuggling offences as well. This is an area where international cooperation and public-private partnerships are essential.

Even with the most comprehensive anti-smuggling policies, success is dependent on the effectiveness of implementation. That is, institutions responsible for carrying out distinct aspects of anti-smuggling strategies must operate in a responsible, transparent, accountable and effective manner. Professionals must be properly trained within their areas of competence and provided with the necessary resources to fulfil their duties. This requires a wide range of initiatives, including those of a legislative, budgetary, capacity-building and operational nature. The design and delivery of policies and programmes should, to the extent possible, provide for the participation of a wide range of civil society actors, contributing to an open, responsive and accountable decision-making process at the international level on crime-related matters.

The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants is not silent in terms of sustainable development efforts:

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Article 15 (3) Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants

Each State Party shall promote or strengthen, as appropriate, development programs and cooperation at the national, regional and international levels, considering the socio-economic realities of migration and paying special attention to economically and socially depressed areas, to combat the root socio-economic causes of the smuggling of migrants, such as poverty and underdevelopment.

Figure 1: Sustainable Development Goals

Source: UN Trust Fund for Human Security
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