People-smuggling and trafficking in persons

Publié: 22 février 2002

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies appreciates the opportunity to contribute to this important dialogue and help the Bali Process achieve its objectives.

The International Federation and the world's National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies do not seek to enter into debate about whether people of concern to the Conference are or are not refugees, asylum seekers or migrants. Our concern is to ensure that the vulnerability of persons who are trapped by inevitability into this cycle of population movement is properly addressed.

This vulnerability starts well before their movement takes place. It is often their condition of extreme vulnerability in their homeland that causes them to take dramatic - sometimes illegal - action to uproot themselves and their families to move.

Their vulnerability is enhanced when they fall into the hands of smugglers and traffickers. Criminal acts on the part of smugglers and traffickers cannot be allowed to reduce obligations to protect and assist vulnerable people.

They should not suffer further degradation and humiliation if intercepted en route. In particular, those groups of trafficked people who merit special care and attention because of generic vulnerability such as children) must be treated in a way that conforms to the requirements of international law with special attention to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

People intercepted while en route are frequently detained, often for many years. The International Federation and National Societies do not pass judgment on detention per se, but in such circumstances, the inalienable rights of the detained persons must be recognised and respected by the detaining authority.

Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are prepared to provide support to states to ensure that special vulnerabilities are being addressed and appropriate humanitarian assistance is being rendered.

A further point of concern, not central to the topic of the conference but nevertheless close to it, is the attitude of the public to refugees and asylum seekers.

Public debate which concentrates on criminal involvement in people smuggling can heighten negative impressions of the asylum seekers themselves and build divisions within communities based on ethnicity, race and religion.

The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has endorsed a policy approach aimed at combating these tendencies, and is seeking the support of all governments to curb this negative tendency as they formulate and apply policy.

States party to the Geneva Conventions and the over 170 National Societies, meeting together at the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, adopted an International Plan of Action, in which they committed themselves to dialogue on matters of common humanitarian concern.

We call upon States to recognise the auxiliary role of National Societies and the growing significance of their work and encourage them to facilitate and support the role of their National Societies in response to new challenges.