UN, Canada fund battle against Thai human trafficking

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Thailand, called by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) a “migration hub in South East Asia and a key country of destination for migrant smuggling”, is entering agreements with Canada and the IOM to combat the problems of human smuggling and to improve border management.

Two separate agreements are being concluded this week. The Geneva-based IOM, together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced 17 April that an agreement was signed in Vienna that will increase cooperation between the two agencies, which already work together in human trafficking in Colombia, southern and western Africa as well as in the Horn of Africa.

Canada funds US$7 million anti-smuggling campaign

Canada, Thailand and the IOM are expected to announce Friday 20 April a project to tackle human smuggling to and from Thailand.

The scheme is funded by a US$7 million donation from Canada. It will “increase the number of frontline officers to identify and assist smuggled migrants and to collect and share information on smuggling operations”, according to the IOM.  It also intends to warn potential migrants about the risks involved in paying smugglers to get them to desired destinations in North America, Europe and the Asian Pacific.

The agreement follows a state visit to Thailand by Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper in March and Canadian concerns about smuggling following the interception of a cargo vessel off the west coast of Canada in 2010 with 492 Sri Lankans aboard.

Thailand has a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, says the IOM, but no specific anti-smuggling legislation exists. The country has not ratified the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which provides a framework for  fighting human smuggling.

Smuggling, trafficking not the same

The United States State Department’s fact sheet on the problem distinguishes trafficking from smuggling. Human trafficking, involves coercion, forced labor, often including prostitution and does not need to involve the movement of the person. In smuggling, the person is generally cooperating and complicit in the crime and involves illegal transit of borders. “They are not necessarily victims of the crime of smuggling (though they may become victims depending on the circumstances in which they were smuggled)”.

The International Labour Organization estimates that some 2.4 million people are trafficked globally at any time, generating $32 billion in profits. The 2011 US State Department’ s report on human trafficking identified 180 countries where it occurs.