Working Group on Disruption of Criminal Networks Involved in People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons
The Bali Process Working Group on the Disruption of People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Networks focuses on concrete, action oriented activities for enhancing coordination to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks involved in people smuggling and trafficking in persons in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Working Group is co-chaired by New Zealand and Viet Nam and reports annually to the Bali Process Ad Hoc Group (AHG). It brings together a network of officials involved in aspects of law enforcement, and border control from the fifteen countries that form the Ad Hoc Group membership.
At the Eighth AHG Senior Officials' Meeting on 6 August, 2014 in Canberra, AHG member countries endorsed the establishment of, and terms of reference for, the Working Group. A Forward Work Plan was developed at an initial Roundtable on Migration and Transnational Crime held under the auspices of the Regional Support Office (RSO) in Bangkok on 24 September, 2015.
The Working Group met for the first time on 19 May, 2015. At this meeting, the co-chairs proposed that the Working Group collectively plans, coordinates, and carries out a Joint Period of Action to disrupt people smuggling and trafficking in persons networks. The initiative was welcomed by the AHG member countries.
Following the conclusion of the fifth Joint Period of Action in December 2019, the co-chairs sought to refresh the Disruption Working Group’s work programme to ensure that participating countries’ priorities continue to be reflected in the Group’s work. In response to this feedback, the co-chairs developed a refreshed concept note with changes to the work programme, which has now been endorsed and forms the forward work plan for 2020-2021.
On 16 and 17 November, 2021 Viet Nam and New Zealand co-chaired the Bali Process Disruption Working Group’s Sixth Annual Meeting. The meeting provided an opportunity to consider ways to promote more effective and coordinated regional responses to disruption of people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related forms of exploitation. The Sixth Annual Meeting also set the strategic direction for the Disruption Working Group with the endorsement of the Forward Work Plan 2021-23.
1st Joint Period of Action
Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand participated in the 1st Joint Period of Action, which was carried out from 28 September to 28 October 2015. INTERPOL provided support. Trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation was investigated across a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, farming, fishing, beauty services, and domestic work. Criminal networks involved in the online commercial sexual exploitation of children were also targeted.
In total, authorities in the eight countries:
- Assisted 59 trafficked persons
- Executed seven search warrants and identified 63 suspects
- Made 32 arrests and launched eight new investigations
- Made over 70 bilateral and international enquires to progress trafficking in persons and people smuggling investigations
- Conducted 68 awareness-raising activities, including for employers, civil society, and vulnerable groups
- Carried out 12 training sessions and trained 485 police, airport, immigration, and compliance officers throughout the region
- Gathered useful intelligence on the traffickers and smugglers involved and their modus operandi
A Joint Period of Action Debrief meeting was held in Bangkok on 25 November 2015 with the AHG member countries to discuss what outcomes were achieved, what worked well, what did not work well, and what should be done differently.
2nd Joint Period of Action
From May to November 2016, law enforcement and immigration agencies from Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the USA carried out nine separate coordinated operations for crimes including maritime people smuggling and trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation across a wide range of sectors, such as fishing, construction, and domestic servitude. Criminal networks involved in the online commercial sexual exploitation of children were also targeted.
Parallel efforts led to over 30 arrests, including the arrest of one of the region’s most notorious people smugglers, Abraham Louhenapessy, better known as Captain Bram. He is currently facing court on people smuggling charges in Indonesia. Trafficking in persons networks were also disrupted in Malaysia, the Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, and the USA.
3rd Joint Period of Action
Between March to August 2017, law enforcement and immigration agencies from ten countries – Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the USA – carried out nine joint operations aimed at dismantling people smuggling and trafficking in persons networks in the Asia-Pacific region. Criminal networks involved in the online commercial sexual exploitation of children were also targeted.
The 3rd Joint Period of Action contributed to 72 persons being convicted of human trafficking and people smuggling offences, including notorious people smuggler Abraham Louhenapessy, better known as Captain Bram. Sixty-two people were also convicted in Thailand’s largest human trafficking trial, which arose from the May 2015 discovery of mass graves along the Thailand-Malaysia border. The investigation was first included under the 1st Joint Period of Action, and the continued cooperation between Thai and Malaysian Police authorities over subsequent periods of action significantly contributed to the results achieved.
Authorities in the ten countries also;
- rescued six trafficked victims
- executed five search warrants and identified 23 new suspects
- made 10 arrests and launched nine new investigations
- made two extradition requests
- made numerous bilateral and international enquiries to progress trafficking in persons and people smuggling investigations
- conducted awareness-raising activities and carried out targeted training for over 50 police, airport, immigration, and compliance officers across the region
- gathered useful intelligence on the traffickers and smugglers involved and their modus operandi.
4th Joint Period of Action
The 4th Joint Period of Action ran over a period of six months (June to November 2018) with ten countries participating – Australia, Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the USA, and Vietnam. During the Debrief Workshop, member countries reported back on the results achieved through nine joint investigations aimed at dismantling people smuggling and trafficking in persons networks in the Asia-Pacific region. The 4th Joint Period of Action resulted in several successes, including the arrest of a Fijian citizen as a result of the joint investigation conducted with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and the Fijian Police. The female Fijian national was charged with a range of crimes, including 17 counts of human trafficking.
Following on from the successful prosecutions of 10 facilitators and organisers under the 3rd Joint Period of Action of a failed maritime people smuggling venture that departed Indonesia in 2015, Indonesia made solid progress in its financial investigation into the syndicate of notorious people smuggler Abraham Louhenapessy, better known as Captain Bram. With support from Australia and New Zealand, the Indonesian National Police (INP) and the Indonesian Financial Intelligence Unit (PPATK) identified two companies and 13 bank accounts used by the syndicate. Authorities also traced the financial flows from this network to 10 countries, enabling them to identify seven new suspects.
The outcomes of the 4th Joint Period of Action also resulted in the development of a significant intelligence picture across several syndicates, with a vast range of targeting opportunities. Vietnamese authorities continued to work with Australian and Malaysian authorities to detect and deter networks involved in the trafficking of Vietnamese nationals, including minors, for the purposes of sexual servitude. Numerous suspects have been identified, particularly in Australia, and arrests are expected as investigations continue.
As part of a separate case, Sri Lankan Police arrested a male suspect believed to be trafficking Sri Lankan nationals to Malaysia for the purpose of forced labour. Bangladesh also continues to monitor the risks of human trafficking and people smuggling in Cox’s Bazaar.
Roundtable on Migration and Transnational Crime - Bangkok, 24 September 2014
First Meeting of the Working Group on the Disruption of People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons- Bangkok 19 May 2015
Joint Period of Action Planning Meeting - Bangkok 1-2 September 2015
Joint Period of Action Debrief Meeting - Bangkok 25 November 2015
2nd Joint Period of Action Planning Meeting - Bangkok 19 May 2016
2nd Joint Period of Action Debrief Meeting - Bangkok 1 December 2016
3rd Joint Period of Action Planning Workshop - Kuala Lumpur 28 February 2017
3rd Joint Period of Action Debrief Workshop - Bangkok 14 September 2017
4th Joint Period of Action Planning Workshop - Bangkok 17 May 2018
4th Joint Period of Action Debrief Workshop - Bangkok 22 November 2018
5th Joint Period of Action Planning Workshop - Bangkok 2-3 July 2019
5th Joint Period of Action Debrief Workshop - Bangkok 3 December 2019
6th Annual Meeting - 16-17 November 2021
1st Joint Period of Action: September – November 2015
2nd Joint Period of Action: May – May to November 2016
3rd Joint Period of Action – March to August 2017
For more information on the Working Group, contact IrregularMigrationProgramme@mbie.govt.nz .