The United Nations agencies that deal with helping refugees and with fighting crime signed a joint agreement today to work together more closely to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
The memorandum of understanding, signed by the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres, aims to combine the work of both entities in overlapping issues to more effectively target criminals involved in human trafficking and to better protect their victims.
“UNODC’s mandate in combating organized crime is complementary to UNHCR’s work of protecting refugees. As we have often seen with human trafficking and migrant smuggling, criminals prey on society’s most vulnerable,” said Mr. Fedotov at the signing in New York.
“Refugees, in search of a better life, can become victims of these criminals and it’s important that we offer coordinated assistance to those who need it the most.”
“The 21st century is the century of people on the move. Climate change, food insecurity, urbanization, population growth, all these trends are combining and forcing people to move and there are complex protection gaps,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that this opens opportunities for illegal and forced migration.
“Money moves freely, goods tend to move more or less freely, but there are enormous obstacles for the movement of people,” he said, stressing that human trafficking presents a situation where human rights are at their most vulnerable.
“We need to make sure that we crack down on the criminals that perpetuate this new form of slavery and protect their victims, which is why working together is so relevant for us,” he said.
Mr. Guterres also called on the international community to increase its investment to combat human trafficking in the same way that it has invested in fighting drug trafficking saying this type of crime is just as relevant and also needs and urgent response and commitment.
The agreement will focus on four defined regions based on the agencies’ work: Latin America, the Gulf of Aden, Afghanistan and its bordering countries, and North Africa.