Migrant smuggling and human trafficking in the Sahel tops UNODC workshop agenda


Human trafficking and migrant smuggling represent major challenges in the Sahel region. Human rights violations, development impediments and the weakening of governmental capacity are some of the consequences resulting from the above mentioned criminal activities. Victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants are often forced to give considerable amounts of money (up to several thousands of dollars per person) to organized criminal networks active in the Sahel, thereby contributing to further destabilizing the region. Another significant cause for concern is the increasing death toll which amounts to thousands of lives every year.

In this context, UNODC delivered a workshop for police and gendarmerie training institutes of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger between the 18 and 21 May 2015. Directors and instructors from each of the six participating institutes met with UNODC representatives, in order to design a syllabus on human trafficking and migrant smuggling to be adapted to the national training curricula of the institutes. The syllabus was described by the participants as a necessary instrument to strengthen the response capacity of police officers on the ground, given that many of them feel they lack the adequate tools to act effectively.

UNODC experts and workshop participants
UNODC experts and workshop participants

In addition, the workshop enabled participants to share capacity building practices. The police academy director from Burkina Faso and host of the workshop, Mr Theophane Segueda, welcomed this initiative during his opening address. He stressed that the three participating countries already have legislation against human trafficking, but that the current training of police officers does not yet differentiate it with other illicit activities such as migrant smuggling.

Emphasis was also placed on the importance of the workshop in view of recent events in the Sahel and the Mediterranean Sea. Regional crises, such as the ones in Libya (2011) or Mali (2012), have contributed to a general climate of insecurity favored by organized criminal networks.

In response to these developments, UNODC provides training workshops to law enforcement officials in the Sahel. This particular workshop, which was the first step of a collaborative initiative with the training institutes, was financed by the Austrian government as part of the UNODC contribution to United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS).