11 July 2006

UNODC Proposes Pact to Stop Smuggling of Migrants from Africa

VIENNA, 11 July (UN Information Service) -- The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, urged participants of the Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development taking place in Rabat, Morocco, to create a Pact to combat the smuggling of irregular migrants from Africa.

UNODC estimates that approximately 200,000 Africans attempt to enter Europe clandestinely every year. Recent high profile incidents include irregular migrants coming ashore in the Canary Islands, Malta and the Pelagi Islands in the Mediterranean, or trying to enter Europe via the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Mellila in Morocco.

They are usually aided by smugglers "who are exploiting some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people", said Mr. Costa. "For every person who reaches Europe, several others have never made it. Europe will never see the untold numbers who die in the Sahara, who are left penniless in transit countries far from home, who drown when their dilapidated boats capsize, or who waste their lives in North African prisons", he warned.

To stem the flow of irregular migrants from Africa to Europe, Mr. Costa underlined the need to address some of the root causes of why people are risking this exodus in the first place -- factors like underdevelopment, crime and corruption.

To combat the criminal activity of smuggling, he urged states to ratify and implement the United Nations Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.

As a follow-up to the Rabat Conference and the Action Plan agreed on at the meeting, Mr. Costa proposed an Irregular Migration Pact (or IM-PACT Initiative) to expose and block smuggling routes, improve information sharing among law enforcement officials, raise awareness of the dangers of migrant smuggling, as well as provide legal and technical assistance. "Irregular migration is mostly profiting criminals at the expense of people's lives and dreams, and giving legal migration a bad name" said Mr. Costa.

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For information contact:

Walter Kemp
Senior Public Information Expert, UNODC
Telephone: +43 1 260 60 5629
E-mail: walter.kemp@unodc.org