The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime

Monday, 24 Oct 2022
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RSO 10th anniversary focuses on nexus between technology and cooperation across borders

The Regional Support Office of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and related Transnational Crime (RSO) marked its tenth anniversary with the Border Cooperation in Practice and Technology Forum: Countering People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. The event took place in Bangkok, Thailand from 26-27 October 2022.

Current challenges in tackling trafficking in persons and people smuggling are substantial – as of mid-2021, Asia and the Pacific hosted 4.22 million refugees and asylum seekers, accounting for 17 per cent of global numbers.

The latest global estimates indicate a shocking 50 million people living in modern slavery, with transnational criminal organisations identifying opportunistic spaces to grow activity and target victims online following international border closures and Covid-19 lockdowns.

The RSO is proud of its role in bringing together colleagues from across Asia and the Pacific and beyond who are working in operational and technical roles and whose focus is on supporting the most vulnerable, investigating and disrupting transnational criminal activities and working to build capability amongst their colleagues in order to collaboratively address trafficking in persons and people smuggling.   

Some 88 delegates attended the RSO’s 10th anniversary border forum, coming together in-person from 24 Bali Process Member States, four international organisations and eight Observers.  Delegates working across law enforcement, border security, human rights and policy will discuss how technology tools can be used in prevention, disruption, investigation and response activities – and how governments and law enforcement can best work collaboratively for effective uptake and implementation of digital technology solutions at borders and across law enforcement activities.

Sessions include presentations to share best practice and learnings from across the region, and small group work sessions to help shape future work. Topics include the use of technology to disrupt transnational crime, the evolution of legislative powers in response to changing technology advances and communication methods, the responsible and ethical use of biometric technology, and practical demonstrations of toolkits to support border officials in identifying and referring trafficking victims for support.

Delegates identified emerging key issues and priorities across the following themes:

•           Understanding and harnessing the latest technology such as the use of biometrics and an integrated border management systems – including risks in removing human interaction in border movement/control and potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities associated with a biometrics system.

•           Responding to and pre-empting online trends (of particular concern were the ongoing call centre scams affecting Bali Process member states, and delegates acknowledged the need for Bali Process Members to strengthen their understating of the latest trends and the ways people are communicating online).

•           Staying one step ahead by equipping and upskilling the law enforcement and border management workforce (a common concern across all attendees despite the considerable range in capacity across member states).

•           The evolution of legislation to enable access to digital evidence and the importance of communicating legislation and policy evolution clearly to the public.

•           Accessing and sharing data across borders, particularly given the role of technology in facilitating trans-national crime.

•           Building public awareness around trafficking risks and the online landscape, especially given the increasing penetration and uptake of technology and internet access in Bali Process member states.

 

The re-opening of international borders presents opportunities for governments, law enforcement and border agencies to strengthen international cooperation practices and enhance information sharing as the effects of the pandemic on online behaviours of transnational criminal organisations continue to present challenges. 

We have seen the ability of Bali Process Member States and International Organisations to be responsive and agile in the face of unprecedented challenges and the use of technology as a tool to combat trafficking in persons, people smuggling and related transnational crime plays a key role here.

The information shared throughout these sessions will support the RSO’s future work on digital technologies and innovation which form one of the six Thematic Areas of Focus within the RSO’s Work Plan – and will be a priority support area for Member States into 2023.

You can find out more about the event by following us on Twitter @baliprocessrso and by following the hashtag #RSOtenyears.