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9 - Counter smuggling

GCM Objectives
9 - Counter smuggling

Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) is based on 23 objectives. This page provides resources for objective 9 (Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants):

“25. We commit to intensify joint efforts to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants by strengthening capacities and international cooperation to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalize the smuggling of migrants in order to end the impunity of smuggling networks. We further commit to ensure that migrants shall not become liable to criminal prosecution for the fact of having been the object of smuggling, notwithstanding potential prosecution for other violations of national law. We also commit to identify smuggled migrants to protect their human rights, taking into consideration the special needs of women and children, and assisting in particular those migrants subject to smuggling under aggravating circumstances, in accordance with international law.


To realize this commitment, we will draw from the following actions:

a) Promote ratification, accession and implementation of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC)

b) Use transnational, regional and bilateral mechanisms to share relevant information and intelligence on smuggling routes, modus operandi and financial transactions of smuggling networks, vulnerabilities faced by smuggled migrants, and other data to dismantle the smuggling networks and enhance joint responses

c) Develop gender-responsive and child-sensitive cooperation protocols along migration routes that outline step-by-step measures to adequately identify and assist smuggled migrants, in accordance with international law, as well as to facilitate cross-border law enforcement and intelligence cooperation in order to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants with the aim to end impunity for smugglers and prevent irregular migration, while ensuring that counter-smuggling measures are in full respect for human rights

d) Adopt legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish the smuggling of migrants as a criminal offence, when committed intentionally and in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit for the smuggler, and include enhanced penalties for smuggling of migrants under aggravating circumstances, in accordance with international law

e) Design, review or amend relevant policies and procedures to distinguish between the crimes of smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons by using the correct definitions and applying distinct responses to these separate crimes, while recognizing that smuggled migrants might also become victims of trafficking in persons, therefore requiring appropriate protection and assistance

f) Take measures to prevent the smuggling of migrants along the migration cycle in partnership with other States and relevant stakeholders, including by cooperating in the fields of development, public information, justice, as well as training and technical capacity-building at national and local levels, paying special attention to geographic areas from where irregular migration systematically originates

(GCM, 2018: para. 25)

Every year, thousands of migrants desperately seeking to escape violence, conflict and dire economic straits, die on perilous journeys by land, sea or air, often at the hands of smugglers. In addition to fatalities, smuggled migrants are also vulnerable to a range of other forms of crime. Some of the frequently reported types faced by smuggled migrants include violence, rape, theft, kidnapping, extortion and trafficking in persons. Addressing the smuggling of migrants, including through prevention efforts as well as prosecution of its perpetrators is a key component of broad migration management and an indispensable effort to protect human rights of migrants, in line with GCM objective 9. Key challenges include the need for strengthening cooperation along migration routes between countries of origin, transit and destination, to be able to appropriately tackle this form of transnational crime. Furthermore, to be able to effectively address smuggling of migrants, it is necessary to address the root causes of migration – underdevelopment, sociopolitical instability, conflict, environmental and climate change among the main ones, to curb the demand for smuggling services. More research and studies are needed to further understand the phenomena of smuggling. Finally, it is imperative to safeguard the rights of smuggled migrants, in line with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish the Smuggling of Migrants.


Smuggling of migrants in the text of the Global Compact

The theme of objective 9 is also mentioned in the following sections of the GCM:

  • Objective 7: Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
  • Objective 10: Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
  • Objective 12: Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
  • Objective 14: Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle

The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) report is available in AR, ZH, EN, FR, RU, ES.


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