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Analytical Studies

Issue Objectives for the Genoa Summit Meeting 2001:
Illegal Migration

1. Strengthen the international collection of data on illegal migration to ensure the information is both accurate and consistent.

Due to the clandestine nature of human trafficking, hard global data on migrant smuggling is non-existent. While countries have their own "guesstimates" as to how many migrants illegally cross into their borders, global smuggling statistics are not available. Controversy exists over the definitions of terms regarding this issue, which means that there is no consistency in the collection and classification of information. For this reason, G8 member countries need to follow the example of the Canadians and the European Union and adopt common definitions on criminal offences such as human smuggling and trafficking, as well as the production and use of fraudulent documents. This will enable governments to track down international criminal networks and to prosecute organized criminals more effectively. In addition, the global collection of data on illegal migration will assist in research to identify patterns of behaviour so that preventive measures targeting the root causes of illegal migration can be developed. These root causes include: growing economic disparity; armed conflict and instability; a stifling political or social climate; and, an environment that can no longer support the livelihood of its inhabitants due to pollution.

2. Strive for greater transparency and co-operation

Migrant smuggling and trafficking are consistently among the issues on the G8 Summit Agenda, where each year the dialogue has followed a strikingly similar path. Member states will begin with identifying the desirability of strengthening and harmonizing national legislation, in addition to reaching a consensus on the need to share information among police authorities, migration officials and diplomats. Member states will endeavour to increase their collaboration to strengthen their capacity to respond to these threats by intensifying their dialogue and expert-level contacts, by actively pursuing opportunities for joint cooperation, by exchanging experiences, best practices and officials, and by undertaking joint practical activities in the justice and home affairs sector. G8 members will state their desire to work in concert with the international community, their partners and civil society to consider ways to develop long-term responses and strategies. They will continue to exchange information on developments related to the international movement of people and the impact on our asylum and legal immigration policies, and investigate the potential for practical cooperation in these areas. To this end, bilateral senior-official consultations on migration, immigration and asylum matters are necessary. In order to derive maximum benefit from managed migration, G8 member states need to share best practices and research on legal migration regimes, and on the integration of legal migrants, in particular within the Metropolis network in order to improve the collective understanding of migration phenomena and strengthen strategic action in this area.

In addition to simply agreeing to co-operate, G8 member states need to find more effective ways to actively combat the smuggling and trafficking of human beings, while ensuring that the criminal organizers are punished, and not their victims. This task is of increasing importance as the ILO recently found that the number of women, children and other smuggled migrants who are being forced into slave labour and prostitution worldwide is on the rise. Especially for this reason, in confronting the problems arising from illegal migration special care must be taken to uphold human rights commitments, such as the Geneva commitment to provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution.

3. Reinforce the need for positive public perception and strong political leadership

In order to develop a strong and successful international anti-smuggling strategy, politicians must be willing to take the initiative to introduce new legislation to harmonize criminal offence definitions and punishments as well as reaffirm their willing to co-operate with other states and non-governmental organizations to develop viable solutions to this problem.

At Genoa, it would be beneficial to see some progress made on how the G8 member countries are going to implement the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) global anti-smuggling strategy. This strategy consists of proposals that fall under the broad headings of: preventive measures, punitive measures, and remedial measures. Prevention includes, at the very root, the need to address inadequate job creation in areas of origin in order to provide viable options for more potential migrants to stay home. This is an issue which can also be addressed during the discussions on development. Prevention also includes looking at the "pull" factors which draw migrants to the receiving country and smugglers to supply their services. For example, if certain sectors of the labour market are consistently unable to attract local workers and rely on immigrants, consideration should be given to creating a better match between legal immigration slots (even seasonal ones) and the real labour demand.

Finally, there is the need for a multi-pronged policy on return. Such a policy needs to be clear and well publicized, as well as enforced. To the extent possible, while recognizing that the law has been broken by the smuggled migrant, it should encourage voluntary return. But when voluntary return is rejected, it must also contemplate an enforceable and enforced deportation policy, and cooperation with countries of origin. Return policy can and should be humane, but the steadily escalating consequences for the smuggled individual need to be articulated and applied if the existence of a return policy is to be credibly dissuasive, and to weigh in people's migration decisions before they opt to move.

On the punitive side, particular emphasis needs to be aimed at the smugglers. First, tougher legislation is needed in most countries to criminalize migrant smuggling and to harmonize penalties internationally. The experience of the past decade has been very instructive in this field, demonstrating both the flexibility and speed of criminal networks in shifting their routes and methods in response to legislative and policy changes, as well as how the "weak link" - the country with relatively less vigorous penalties and enforcement possibilities - can quickly become a favoured transit or destination country. But the best laws in the world need to be enforced, cases need to be prosecuted, harsh sentences need to be meted out if the risk a smuggler runs is to rise and ultimately have a dissuasive effect. Here, training of border guards, the police and the judiciary is of critical importance. And that training needs to convey a two-fold message: recognition of the threat to security and orderly migration that the smugglers represent, but also recognition that the smuggled - who admittedly have broken the law and exposed themselves to legal action as a result - are also human beings with basic human rights and entitlement to humane treatment. And in this latter context, it is particularly important to reinforce the special distinction that has to be made for those who have turned to smugglers as the only option for escape from persecution, and whose right to seek asylum cannot be compromised by their having done so.

There is also the need for tighter border control measures. This means dedicating adequate resources to the task, better utilizing advanced technology (including detection equipment), and improving information sharing among the police authorities of all the countries concerned - sending, receiving and transit.

While preventive and punitive measures are working simultaneously to effect, over time, a reduction in the scale of human smuggling, there remains the remedial issue. This third policy segment focuses essentially on facilitating return of the illegal migrants. As noted previously, departure from the receiving country should be the general goal - preferably voluntary departure, with assistance if needed. However, any return policy framework should also explicitly recognize at least the following cases for exceptional treatment:

At Genoa, the leaders need to discuss how best to implement the IOM proposals outlined above in their domestic settings.

Prepared by Melanie Martin and Denisse Rudich

G8 Centre
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