Regional conference on combating human trafficking, migrant smuggling kicks off in Sharm El-Sheikh

Reem Hesham , Monday 10 Jul 2023

The Regional Conference on International Cooperation in Criminal Matters relating to the investigation and prosecution of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Migrant Smuggling (SOM) kicked off on 10 July in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Sharm El-Sheikh
File Photo: The flags of United Nations member states during the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm El-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name. AFP

The conference is being organized in collaboration with Egypt's National Coordinating Committee for Combating and Preventing Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Persons (NCCPIM&TIP) and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) regional office for the Middle East and North Africa.

Its goal is to help member nations in West and North Africa prevent and battle transnational crime, human trafficking, and migrant smuggling.

The four-day conference will be attended by representatives from 20 countries.

It intends to facilitate international collaboration in criminal cases to prevent, repress, and prosecute TIP and SOM by encouraging the exchange of knowledge on best practices and available instruments.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Naela Gabr, the head of NCCPIM&TIP, reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to combating both crimes.

Gabr cited Egypt's ratification of international conventions and protocols, such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its two protocols: the 2003 protocol on suppressing, preventing, and punishing trafficking in persons, especially women and children; and the 2005 protocol on combating migrant smuggling by land, sea, and air.

She also highlighted Egypt's strict laws on combating TIP and SOM, such as Law No. 64/2010 on combating human trafficking; Law No. 126/2008 of the child law; and Law No. 82/2016 (amended by Law No.22 of 2022) on combating illegal immigration and migrant smuggling.

She also cited Egypt's 2014 constitution, which contains articles on combating both TIP and SOM.

According to recent estimates, the MENA region has experienced a surge in illegal immigration, with thousands attempting perilous crossings across the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

The area is a major transit point, and nations face substantial migratory flows, putting a strain on the region's resources and posing significant security and humanitarian issues.

Counselor Ahmed Said Khalil, Chairman of the Egyptian Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Combating Unit (EMLCU), confirmed in his speech at the conference that human trafficking and migrant smuggling represent common crimes committed by organized criminal groups worldwide.

Khalil also noted that these criminal activities generate billions of dollars worth of profits for these groups.

He cited a 2022 US State Department report on human trafficking that values the profits the perpetrators of these crimes make at around $150 billion.   

According to a joint statement released by the NCCPIM&TIP and the UNODC, the conference aims to increase the capacity of participating nations in combating these crimes by tackling the problems that tend to arise from human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

The recent expansion in illegal migration from Africa and the Middle East, and the new methods adopted by criminal groups to exploit victims of human trafficking, have increased the need for nations to adopt more efficient and effective strategies, according to the statement.  

These strategies should increase nations' ability to detect criminal networks that exploit vulnerable people.

They should also provide protection and assistance to the victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants, as per the statement.

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