The Consultation Mechanism was established following the 2015 irregular migration events in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Ministers at the Sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference in 2016 acknowledged the need for more agile and timely responses by Bali Process members on time-sensitive migration issues. Ministers agreed to create a mechanism that would authorise the Co-Chairs to consult and convene meetings to discuss specific urgent irregular migration issues and consult with members to formulate possible regional responses. Participation in the meetings is voluntary and non-binding.
These meetings take place in addition to the regular Steering Group and Ad Hoc Group Senior Officials Meetings. If deemed necessary, meetings can be convened at the Ministerial level. These meetings:
- Enable exchange of the latest information on emergency irregular migration situations amongst relevant members
- Facilitate the timely coordination of appropriate Bali Process and/or other regional support to help address the issue(s)/situation(s); and
- Provide the opportunity for relevant member countries to share ideas on potential national, bilateral or regional emergency irregular migration responses/policies.
The Consultation Mechanism is supported by the Task Force for Planning and Preparedness, which aims to enhance cooperation among operational officials responding to a maritime migration event. The Task Force for Planning and Preparedness aims to support the early warning capabilities of officials and their capacity to coordinate action at an operational level for large influxes of irregular migrants. In practice, this looks like developing protocols and measures to harmonise detection, search and rescue, disembarkation, and shelter management through the sharing of best national, bilateral, and regional practices. The aim is to standardise these arrangements at a sub-regional and regional level to ensure predictable and functional responses in the event of another mass displacement. Task Force for Planning and Preparedness meetings have taken the form of Tabletop Exercises or focused on discussing National Plans of Action to improve coordination and responses.