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Balkan workshop addresses irregular migration-related crimes and how to protect the victims of trafficking 

A two-day workshop organised by the OSCE to strengthen cross-border co-operation in addressing irregular migration-related crimes in the Western Balkans opened on August 31 in Podgorica, Montenegro. The event brought together policymakers and law enforcement officials from relevant bodies in the region as well as representatives of international and regional organisations.

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"Unregulated migration flows blur the distinction between smuggling of migrants and human trafficking," said an OSCE representative (OSCE/Zaur Zeynal)

The workshop saw participants identify gaps and challenges and share good practices in addressing irregular migration-related crimes and protecting victims of trafficking in human beings and the rights of migrants and refugees. The areas of prevention, prosecution, cross-border co-operation and assistance to victims, migrants and refugees will be closely examined.

The event was organised by the Transnational Threats Department with the support of its Strategic Police Matters Unit, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

“Unregulated migration flows blur the distinction between smuggling of migrants and human trafficking,” said the OSCE Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Madina Jarbussynova. “In such a complex environment no actor can cope in itself with the associated human trafficking risks, all forms of co-operation become absolutely crucial.” 

Argentina Szabados, Regional Director at the IOM’s Vienna Regional Office, said: “There is evidence of extensive networks of smugglers and traffickers spanning countries of origin, transit and destination. Our collective responsibility requires paying particular attention to those made vulnerable by a myriad circumstances and conditions to ensure that their needs are properly identified and that they are provided with appropriate support and protection.”

Efficient border management is one of the key segments in the fight against international organised crime, according to Vesko Damjanovic, Deputy Director of Montenegro’s Border Police Sector: “The capacities of Montenegro’s Border Police have been improved in conducting risk analysis assessments and in international co-operation. Furthermore, the Schengen Action Plan we prepared encompasses all segments of the Schengen legal system for border control, operation of equipment, and advanced training on the Schengen Information System.”

Morgane Nicot, UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer highlighted that states cannot stop organised crime networks facilitating irregular migration on their own. “To do so, they must work together across borders along the migratory route. Even in the absence of bilateral agreements, the United Nation Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its supplementing Protocols provide a universal framework for action.”

As part of the workshop, concrete recommendations will be devised by the OSCE Transnational Threats Department in co-operation with the Office of the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, the IOM and the UNODC for enhancing international and cross-border co-operation in the Western Balkans, involving criminal justice and migration practitioners as well as other relevant stakeholders from the public and private sector.

Read CRJ's interview with Shandra Woworuntu, who was trafficked and ensnared in sexual slavery, about her work to raise awareness of the gaps in identifying and dealing with this crime, as well as the lack of assistance provided to its survivors, in issue 12:1, out now 

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