Press Releases

    For information only - not an official document

    17 December 2015

    Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov:

    Statement on International Migrants Day

    VIENNA 18 December (UN Information Service) - This has been a deadly year for migrants with thousands killed across the world - many of whom were seeking to escape conflict and chaos.

    Just one illustration, the deaths of 71 migrants in an airless food truck on the outskirts of Vienna, revealed in horrific detail the migrant smugglers' appalling absence of humanity.

    Unlike almost any other year since the Second World War, the tragic images of the lost and the saved off Mediterranean, Asian and African coasts, has sharpened the focus on the plight of millions on the move.

    Migrants and refugees are vulnerable throughout their search for sanctuary and safety. The absence of sufficient legal and safe pathways can lead migrants to undertake perilous journeys.

    Every stop, every journey on train, boat or truck, risks the possibility of abuse, violence and exploitation at the hands of organized criminal networks who scorn internationally agreed laws and standards.

    Impunity for these crimes must end. Those preyed upon, especially women and children, are rights-holders, regardless of their status, and they are entitled to our assistance and protection.

    The world endorsed in September the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 16 calls for greater access to justice. If justice and human rights are to prevail, the criminal smugglers and human traffickers must be stopped from abusing and exploiting the hopes of migrants and refugees.

    But to do this, the world needs to act in concert to tackle the root causes of conflict and irregular migration, as well as addressing the exploitation and victimization that many migrants suffer.

    Every country, whether origin, transit or destination is bound by the links of shared responsibility. We must strengthen these ties that bind.

    I encourage all countries to not only ratify, but fully implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against migrant smuggling, as well as the Protocol against the often connected crime of human trafficking.

    Operations against the masterminds and the criminal groups behind migrant smuggling can be sharpened by firm intelligence. We need greater research, as well as information sharing and joint cooperation.

    Responsibility, however, lies not just with countries. The private sector, civil society and the public all have a crucial role.

    On International Migrants Day, a global alliance bound by human rights and an agreed roadmap is needed to work together to eliminate migrant smuggling that puts migrants' lives at great risk.

    Our efforts must, above all else, prevent the timeless desire for a better life ending in a desperate death for thousands of children, women and men.

    * *** *

    For further information please contact:

    David Dadge
    Spokesperson, UNODC
    Phone: (+43 1) 26060-5629
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
    Email: david.dadge[at]