"Refusal to assist persons in distress at sea, regardless of who they are and how they came to be there, can lead to terrible consequences which represent a collective humanitarian failure," UNHCR official.
Jakarta (Antara News) - Indonesia and Australia have agreed that people smuggling and trafficking in persons are complex and multidimensional problems that require cooperation among source, transit and destination countries to tackle them.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 2012 saw unprecedented migratory movements on all maritime routes in the Asia-Pacific region, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said in his opening speech at the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.

The Asia-Pacific plays host to more than 9.5 million people of concern to UNHCR including refugees, internally displaced people, and people without states.

In Asia it is estimated that more than 700,000 people are trafficked annually. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that more than 20 million people globally are victims of forced labor, including those that have been trafficked.

"Sadly, where there are vulnerable people there are predators; human traffickers and people smugglers who prey on the desperate for their own financial gain," Carr, who co-chaired the Bali Process meeting together with Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, in Nusa Dua, Bali Province, on April 2, 2013, said.

Initiated in 2002 by Indonesia and Australia, the Bali Process has effectively raised regional awareness of the consequences of people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime, and developed and implemented strategies and practical cooperation in response.

It is the only regional mechanism which involves the origin, transit and destination countries to deal with human trafficking and smuggling problems. Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the envoys of UNHCR and IOM are listed as members of the "Bali Process Steering Group".

More than 40 countries and numerous international agencies participate in this voluntary forum. In the latest meeting, Indonesia`s and Australia`s foreign ministers welcomed the US, the United Arab Emirates and UNODC as new members.

The meeting was attended by 12 ministers from 11 member states - with two ministers from Australia, as well as 200 delegates from 40 countries and international organizations.

Indonesia is one of the main transit countries in the region for asylum seekers wanting to go to Australia by boats particularly.

Minister Marty Natalegawa in his opening speech emphasized three key aspects in dealing with the problems, namely "prevention, early detection and protection."

"Steps to effectively prevent people smuggling and human trafficking are not only for countries of origin to institute, but also those of transit and destination as well. We must dissect and identify conditions that have proven conducive for the crimes to proliferate," Marty stated.

He said the most important measure in preventing human smuggling and trafficking is by addressing the root causes of the problems. The problems that triggered human smuggling and trafficking include poverty, unemployment, conflicts and insecurity.

"However, we can not depend only on the preventive measure to solve the human trafficking problem, hence the government should be able to mobilize the community to help carry out early detection of possible human trafficking or smuggling," he said.

The minister stressed the significant role of civil society and other stakeholders to increase the public awareness of the fact that people smuggling does not always promise success to the victims, he said.

As for early detection, he said, early and effective detection would enable states to respond promptly, as well as minimizing the potential for abuse and exploitation of victims.

On protection, he said, "We must underscore the importance of addressing humanitarian and protection needs in managing irregular movements of people. Therefore, protection should be victim centered."

On human trafficking, the meeting accepted Indonesia`s proposal on the establishment of a working group that opens for all members of Bali Process who want to be involved in helping human trafficking victims.

This new group will work with governments, civil society organizations and the private sector in countering human trafficking and to support and protect its victims.

Australia, on the other hand, during the meeting tended to emphasize on "deterrence measures" to fight the people smuggling and human trafficking problems.

"To combat both the activities of human traffickers and people smugglers we need to continue our efforts to strengthen law enforcement cooperation and border management responses," Minister Bob Carr said.

For that purpose, Australia and Indonesia will revamp a joint police training facility - the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation, which was originally set up in 2004, two years after the Bali bombing, to fight terrorism. The Center will now also train police around the region in combating people smuggling.

The Center, according to Bob Carr, has a strong track record of building law enforcement capacity and enhancing cooperation in the region and beyond, so tapping into the expertise of JCLEC will assist Bali Process members to strengthen efforts in the region to address both people smuggling and trafficking in persons.

"Providing our policy makers and practitioners with the tools for criminalizing people smuggling and human trafficking is also vital if we are to successfully prosecute these crimes. I am pleased to see a proposal to develop policy guides to assist member countries take practical steps in this area," he added.

Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O`Connor, who led his country`s delegation during the meeting, hailed the meeting`s decision to link the Bali Process with the JCLEC, which is considered as a move towards criminalizing human trafficking and people smuggling.

"JCLEC has led training in countering terrorism and is well placed to boost our region`s police and border security response to people smuggling and trafficking in persons," O`Connor said.

The Bali Process also welcomed an implementation plan of the Regional Cooperation Framework and the Regional Support Office, which was established in Bangkok in 2011, to help Bali Process members "to better work together to deter the irregular movement of people in the region and make it harder for people smuggling syndicates to operate."

Welcoming the results of the Bali Process meeting, UNHCR`s assistant high commissioner for protection, Erika Feller, cautioned, however, that much more remains to be done "to move beyond the language of cooperation to practical and concrete action.

She also warned against nations taking "unilateral action" to address the problems.

Feller said growing numbers of people were taking to the seas, risking their lives and facing exploitation in the process. On the other hand, receiving countries feel they are left to shoulder the responsibility alone.

"Refusal to assist persons in distress at sea, regardless of who they are and how they came to be there, can lead to terrible consequences which represent a collective humanitarian failure," she said as quoted on the official website of UNHCR.

She stated that to be effective and sustainable, a comprehensive approach must accommodate both the state security as well as the human security dimensions of the problems. ***1***
(T.F001/A/F001/A/H-YH) 03-04-2013 22:45:10

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
Copyright © ANTARA 2013