Conference Reports

2011 Smuggling Roundtable Meeting Report

The Global Alliance Against Traffici in Women (GAATW) in collaboration with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)




In the past year, Northern governments facing public outcry at perceived influxes of migrants have intensified bi- and multi-lateral discussions on ‘mixed-migration’ and smuggling, including its intersects with trafficking. Increasingly smuggling and trafficking are seen as interdependent and often used interchangeably in discourse and policy. The human rights community is largely failing to address the impact of criminalizing anti-smuggling measures which often see States failing in their responsibilities to protect, promote and uphold human rights.  This neglect has not just permitted a weakening of rights protections gained for trafficked persons, refugees and other protected migrants, but has the effect of creating an unacceptably weak ‘minimum human rights framework’ for all migrants. Governments have devised policies which address the prevention of migration and the narrowing of protection categories as symbiotic: spaces for refugees, trafficked persons and other migrants with special protections are reduced and increasing numbers of migrants are sorted into the ‘irregular’ category.

The GAATW and OHCHR Asia-Pacific Smuggling Roundtable brought together governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental representatives to discuss current anti-smuggling measures and developments.


Recommendations to the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Recommendations to civil society



Ms Rebecca Napier-Moore (Research Programme Officer, GAATW): Welcome, Explanation of Chatham House Rule, Presentation of Smuggling Cases, Review of Key Questions and Rationale
Mr Homayoun Alizadeh (Regional Representative for South-East Asia, OHCHR) and Hannah Wu (Deputy Head of Office for South-East Asia, OHCHR): Introduction to the UN Human Rights Framework
Mr Wanchai Roojanawong (Public Prosecutor, Deputy Director General of International Affairs, Thailand Office of the Attorney General): Smuggling and Trafficking Cases in Thailand
Mr Amir bin Nasruddin (Senior Legal Advisor, Ministry of Home Affairs):  Implementation of the Malaysian Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007: The new smuggling addition and intersections with anti-trafficking work
Ms Margaret Akullo (UNODC East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office): When is a Smuggled Person a Victim?
Ms Eleanor Taylor-Nicholson (Independent): Smuggling and Human Rights: Protocol and Practice
Ms Sophie Nonnenmacher (Regional Policy and Liaison Officer, IOM): Global Governance of Migration including Migrant Smuggling
Ms Yvonne Carroll (Political & Economic Section, Australian Embassy Bangkok): The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime -working at the regional level to combat people smuggling and human trafficking
Mr Phil Robertson (Deputy Director Asia Division, Human Rights Watch): Transit Countries’ Role in Blocking Smuggling Routes
Ms Pia Oberoi (Migration Advisor, OHCHR): A Look at the Impact of the Human Rights Framework on Smuggling and Anti-Smuggling, and Vice Versa
Mr Robert Larsson and Mr. Thomas Vargas (UNHCR Regional Protection Hub for the Asia-Pacific Bangkok, UNHCR): Protection Challenges: Addressing Smuggling and Mixed Movements in the Asia-Pacific
Ms Jackie Pollock (Director, MAP Foundation): Smuggling: Necessary and Ubiquitous
Ms Anne Gallagher (Independent) Challenges and Opportunities of the International Legal Framework
Mr Don Flynn (Director, Migrant Rights Network): Addressing the Practical Impacts of the Smuggling Framework
Group Discussion: How Civil Society Organisations can Work with Different Actors through Research and Advocacy to Ensure Rights Protections


The Roundtable operated under Chatham House anonymity rules and therefore the notes below are a summary interpretation of the three days’ discussions.  Participants’ comments have been anonymised and grouped thematically. None of the comments cited are representative of all participants’ views, rather of individuals or sub-groups of participants.
The roundtable was facilitated with the following questions at its core:
  1. How can we compare smuggling and trafficking?
  2. When can smuggled migrants seek remedy?
  3. What changes, in practice, when migration is criminalized?
  4. How are global governance models changing?
  5. What is the future for anti-smuggling measures?
The following is a summary of key points from discussions which took place around these questions. Obviously within the scope of this brief meeting, none of these issues were covered exhaustively but there was general consensus that the roundtable provided a great launch pad for further discussions in this regard.


Intersections between the smuggling and trafficking protocols


Key distinctions discussed by participants

Trafficking protocol: offers protection to victims, provides for victims’ cooperation in legal proceedings, offers victim support, exploitation is a key element, can be domestic and cross border, there must be three parties to the crime, the victim not liable to criminal prosecution, victims can access protection and support, a ‘typical’ victim is a woman or child considered vulnerable to abuse of her rights.
Smuggling Protocol: focuses on prevention of movement, places an emphasis on adequate documentation, focuses on the prosecution of smugglers, justifies deportations, can only be cross border, only two parties are required, seen as commercial contract between two parties, fails to adequately address victims rights, victims are liable to criminal prosecution without support, a ‘typical’ victim is a man who is considered strong enough to protect himself from rights violations.
Appeal of the ‘smuggling paradigm’ and possible pitfalls


Protective categories for migrants and the human rights framework


Causes and consequences of criminalisation


The Bali Process
Destination-Transit bilateral negotiations


UN agencies roles in relation to smuggling
The role of the human rights advocates in relation to smuggling