UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development
Roundtable 2: Measures to ensure respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants, with particular reference to women and children, as well as to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons and to ensure orderly, regular and safe migration.
3 October 2013
Your excellencies, distinguished chairpersons,
The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women welcomes the opportunity of this roundtable and we thank you for giving us time to make this intervention.
We are an alliance of over 100 independent NGOs. We locate human trafficking in the context of migration and migrant worker rights, recognising that the majority of trafficked persons are migrant workers in informal, unorganised and unprotected labour sectors.
The story of humankind is a story of migrations. Our ability and drive to migrate and adapt are amongst the factors that made us human. Now more than ever, it is central to how we live: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the 21st Century the “age of mobility”.
Human rights are central to safe migration. We call on States and this HLD to reaffirm the rights-based framework as the primary framework for intergovernmental discourse and action on migration, including by ensuring that all actors and forums in this area take human rights as the basis of their work.
And we urge States here to ensure that human rights remain at the heart of this roundtable. We are troubled that the HLD is framing what should be a panel on human rights in such a why as to focus instead on restrictions on and control of migration. For example, if we are discussing and identifying a list of rights-enhancing measures – why is combatting smuggling listed here?
By sheer necessity, many migrants pay a broker to reach their destination. There are circumstances where many migrants absolutely rely on smuggling to flee harmful situations such as armed conflicts. Driving smuggling further underground just increases the danger for migrants – including the risk of trafficking. Thus the framing of this roundtable regarding preventing and combatting smuggling is the wrong objective and will cause harm to migrants.
We remind States that the UN Smuggling Protocol creates the offence of smuggling but does not require States to criminalise people who are smuggled. Many State responses to smuggling go far beyond the intention of the protocol, including by criminalising people who are smuggled – and other irregular migrants.
Often the laws and policies against irregular migration, including those against people smuggling, are implemented in the name of addressing trafficking in persons. But the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women is increasingly concerned with immigration measures that criminalise migrants and also badly affect people who have been trafficked. Many people in trafficking situations also classify, in government terms, as having been ‘smuggled’. Authorities do not always screen migrants to assess whether they might have been trafficked, but detain them as criminals, as ‘smuggled’ or as irregular migrants, deporting them before they have a chance to seek or receive the rights to which they are entitled. Conflating smuggling and trafficking leads to the over-policing of migrants and the under-policing and non-identification of people who have been trafficked. Furthermore, it prioritises a law enforcement rather than human rights approach. In doing so, the focus of the anti-trafficking efforts moves from the individual who has been trafficked and towards the security of the State. Similarly, there is a shifting of responsibility from the State to non-State actors.
The HLD and this roundtable offer an excellent opportunity to call on States to de-link smuggling and trafficking in order better to protect the rights of all migrants, and we urge States to ensure this clarity in the resolution from this session. We hope that an outcome of this roundtable will be a commitment to keep the focus on – as the first part of the title of the roundtable sets out – “Measures to ensure respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants”.
 Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Crime
 Smuggling And. Trafficking. Rights And Intersections. GAATW Working Paper Series 2011, http://www.gaatw.org/publications/Working_Papers_Smuggling/WPonSmuggling_31Mar2012.pdf