People smuggling, also referred to as the smuggling of migrants, refers to the facilitated, illegal movement of people across borders.

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Across the world, countries are facing a growing scale and complexity of irregular migration challenges – in response to external pressures linked to humanitarian disasters, conflict and political instability, and economic inequality.

Migrant smugglers facilitate other people’s illegal entry into a foreign country by various methods, for example, by producing, procuring, providing, or possessing fraudulent travel or identity documents, bribing officials, and by arranging transport to secretly cross an international border.

Complex criminal networks take advantage of those seeking opportunities and a better life, charging high prices for dangerous and illegal journeys, with migrants extremely vulnerable to other forms of crime including trafficking.

The Bali Process’ role in strengthening cooperation and dialogue across Member States to tackle criminal activity and reach, uphold migrant rights and support registration and integration, and to reduce migrant exploitation is more important than ever.

Countering People Smuggling

People smuggling occurs in all regions of the world. There are no reliable global statistics on the number of migrants smuggled due to major challenges such as the hidden nature of the problem and the lack of established data recording systems.

People smuggling is a highly profitable business and smugglers and criminal networks take advantage of those seeking to escape poverty, conflict, persecution and other natural and humanitarian disasters in search of opportunities and a better life—charging high prices for dangerous and illegal journeys, with migrants extremely vulnerable to other forms of crime including trafficking. 

Response is also hampered because it is often misidentified as a migration-related offence. Smuggling of migrants is often conflated with trafficking in persons, which is a distinct though sometimes related crime captured in a separate instrument.

©Jo Aigner

The Regional Support Office of the Bali Process (RSO) Countering People Smuggling programme aims to support Bali Process Member States:

  • To improve the understanding of the shifts in the business model for smugglers operating across the Bali Process region.
  • To enhance multi-country and multi-agency information sharing and sustained dialogue amongst the most affected Bali Process Member States.
  • To re-commence capability development activities and invest in research and enquiry activities that will contribute to improved knowledge gains and awareness raising on the smuggling challenges, trends and disruption opportunities for Bali Process Member States. 
  • To support enhanced understanding of the trends associated with people smuggling across the Bali Process region with a focus on irregular maritime venture activities and people smuggling by air, analysis of people smugglers disinformation activities and identify potential future threats that could face the Bali Process region with respect to people smuggling.


Resources for states, policy makers and practitioners

Resources for states, policy makers and practitioners

The RSO develops resources such as guides, policy papers, thematic briefs, and training materials to support knowledge and capacity building across Bali Process Members to address people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime, and facilitate the sharing of information and best practices from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

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