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Goff Speech: on work of the Ad Hoc Experts Group

Phil Goff Speech: Presentation on work of the Ad Hoc Experts Group

Address to the second regional ministerial conference on people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime Bali, Indonesia

The task of the first working group was to strengthen regional and international cooperation to combat people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime.

I would like to acknowledge and thank all those who participated in the Group. In particular, the contributions made by Japan, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Republic of Korea, Kiribati, Brunei and Sri Lanka were critical to achieving the Group’s objectives.

I acknowledge too the cooperation of the IOM and UNHCR.

The process of the Working Group highlighted a number of points.

Combating illegal migration not only requires cooperation and coordination between countries in order to be effective, it also requires that cooperation within countries.

Time and again the Group found major shortcomings in lack of communication between organisations within countries dealing with migration problems. All of us need to look at the adequacy of communications and cooperation between relevant agencies within our own countries.

Building meaningful and broad-based cooperation between countries takes time.

Progress has been made but much further work needs to be done to consolidate the process of cooperation. The process should be continued and built upon.

The challenge facing this conference is how we should best do this: should we establish a secretariat? should we, as was originally intended, now pass over the work programme to an existing entity? should the working groups continue with the work they have been undertaking, reporting to senior officials and periodically to Ministers?

In Brunei last September, a Plan of Action was developed. This looked at promoting awareness and understanding of people smuggling and trafficking, and identifying existing and supporting new measures to combat it. It builds on the following principles of the Bangkok Declaration and the First Bali Ministerial Conference.

States have the sovereign right to determine which non-nationals can enter their territory and under what conditions. That right is fundamentally challenged by people smuggling and trafficking.

Countries cannot tackle the problems of people smuggling on their own. Collective regional and international effort is required.

Action to combat people smuggling and trafficking should be integrated and comprehensive.

The legitimate right of refugees should be respected but people smugglers should not be able to abuse Conventions on refugee protection.

To ultimately solve the problem of illegal migration, its root causes must be addressed.

The Plan of Action promotes a number of key measures. It calls for the strengthening and development of regional and national information sharing. It seeks to identify and meet capacity needs through cooperative action in the area of border management. It looks to facilitate the return of persons who have no legal authority to remain, in accordance with national laws and international conventions. It recommends conducting public awareness campaigns. It sets out how to improve international cooperation by establishing effective domestic coordination mechanisms, and it aims to develop a comprehensive regional approach to mixed flows.

With these goals in mind, under the Ad Hoc Experts Group I, countries have undertaken individual projects to facilitate awareness and cooperation.

New Zealand has produced resource materials outlining the organisations within each country and international links they have established to combat illegal migration.

Japan has coordinated a project on information sharing and analysis of national and regional approaches to oppose people smuggling. New Zealand, Japan and Australia are developing a proposal for dealing with lost, stolen and forged travel documents.

The UNHCR, supported by Japan, has facilitated a workshop on best practice status determination procedures aimed at building countries’ capacity in this area. Australia has surveyed and analysed return and readmission practices in the region. The Republic of Korea has surveyed the efficacy of public awareness campaigns in combating people smuggling and will host a further meeting to develop a regional pilot public awareness campaign later this year.

Kiribati and the IOM have analysed migration flows in the Asia-Pacific region. The IOM with help from Japan has developed a Bali process website.

In Sri Lanka in March of this year, officials met to review progress and to prepare recommendations for Ministers to consider at this meeting. These recommendations are set out on pages 6-8 of the Report.

They encompass a range of measures such as facilitating communication, inter-agency coordination, exchange of intelligence, the development of legislation, best practice models and agreements to facilitate return of illegal migrants.

Ministerial support is sought for the development and implementation of the mechanisms necessary to enable states in the region to manage illegal migration such as through registration, biometrics and measures to detect document fraud.

The Bali process has usefully contributed towards strengthening cooperation in combating people smuggling and trafficking in persons and related transnational crime.

Officials recommend to us that the work programme is useful and should continue. The Bali process is seen as offering a practical means to drive forward the implementation of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and its associated Protocols in this area.

It is proposed that future action should continue to be based on the voluntary, non-binding characteristics of the Bali process.

This allows for countries to hold different perspectives, contribute according to their capacity and to cooperate to achieve shared objectives.

In conclusion, it is worth remembering why so many of us came together in Bali last year and are again gathered here at this conference.

The scale and complexity of illegal migration poses major challenges to our political, economic and social systems. This is not a problem which is going to go away. People smuggling and trafficking are organised by criminal networks. They trade in human misery. They present a significant challenge to the rule of law and state sovereignty.

Only by working together and presenting a coordinated and effective response can we neutralise this threat.

That means we must build upon the progress we have made over the last year and must not allow the momentum to be lost.

Once again, I thank all those who have contributed to the progress of the Ad Hoc Expert Group I and commend to Ministers the recommendations of the Group.

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