The third meeting of the Task Force on Planning and Preparedness (TFPP) of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process) was held in Bangkok on 21-22 March 2018.
The meeting brought together officials representing immigration, defence, coast guard, law enforcement, search and rescue, and other relevant agencies from Bali Process members, together with experts from international organisations. Representatives attending the meeting were from Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United States, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Organization for Migration IOM), and the Bali Process Regional Support Office (RSO). The Government of Myanmar offered its apologies that it was unable to attend.
National Plans of Action
This third meeting of the TFPP focused on National Plans of Action to improve coordination and responses to sudden and large influxes of irregular migrants, particularly by sea. State participants delivered presentations on the current status and progress of their plans. This included how the plans were developed, key agencies and their roles, coordination mechanisms, command and control, lessons learned, areas for improvement and support, and scope for enhanced international coordination. A retired Indian Navy Commodore provided a keynote presentation outlining India’s maritime priorities, framework and coordination mechanisms, and initiatives to enhance operational effectiveness amongst various government agencies.
Participant presentations facilitated the sharing of experiences and lessons in planning and strengthening national operating procedures to respond to regional irregular migration events.
- Australia focused on maritime security management arrangements – legal powers, inter‑agency coordination, roles and responsibilities.
- Bangladesh outlined its significant response to large scale inward irregular migration since August 2017, including coordination with international organisations and the provision of humanitarian assistance, and action to prevent outward irregular maritime migration, and support needs.
- Malaysia pointed to the benefits of enhancing cooperation between regional countries, outlined its legislative and operating framework, and practices, successes and challenges, and discussed regional human trafficking and people smuggling causes and routes.
- Indonesia explained its national framework, and the objectives, agency roles and coordination involved in finding, sheltering, securing and monitoring, and constraints and challenges.
- New Zealand explained its risk responsibility strategy pillars of deterrence, disruption and response, strategic priorities, integrated contingency planning, operational phases and lines of operation, stakeholders and coordination, and lessons learnt.
- Sri Lanka explained the context of its plan, and focus on irregular maritime movements. Operations were based on intelligence, surveillance and exchange with domestic/foreign agencies. Interagency coordination assisted with all aspects – pre-departure, entry, stay, return and reintegration. It noted lessons learnt, resourcing needs and other challenges.
- Thailand focused on its responses to irregular migration, including its mission, coordination, command and structure, upgrading of monitoring, control and surveillance, information sharing, and proposed legislation to upgrade maritime security management.
- The United States outlined the need for border security to manage humanitarian, search and rescue, and transnational crime considerations, and issues to do with policy coordination, interoperability, measures to combat the threat, processing and care and return arrangements.
The IOM and UNHCR presented on recent mass movements and responses, noting the rapid irregular migration of 671,000 persons from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017. It outlined regional approaches to response coordination, search and rescue, disembarkation, and shelter management in some regional countries, focusing on the challenges faced by Bangladesh in coordinating assistance, and noting Sri Lanka’s health standard operating procedures.
The RSO facilitated discussion on elements of the response stage: (1) national plan of action; (2) coordination mechanisms and agencies; (3) national legislation and policy; (4) prevention and disruption; (5) maritime domain awareness; (6) information sharing (within states and with other states); (7) search and rescue; (8) detection and response; (9) disembarkation options; (10) identification of protection needs; (11) reception and shelter; (12) temporary protection, (13) return of migrants (where appropriate); and (14) criminal investigations.
Participants discussed commonalities and differences around planning, lessons learnt for better planning and preparedness, and issues for further discussion and learning. There was consideration of opportunities and priorities for greater sharing of information, and on work needed to support this. The meeting canvassed priority areas to support states to respond better to irregular maritime migration, and the role of the Task Force on Planning and Preparedness to support this. It considered what support states could require, as well as what support states could provide.
The meeting encouraged states to provide the RSO with details on national contact points, to share more widely. It supported disseminating information about the meeting within the broader Bali Process membership.