UNODC strengthens capacities to fight human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in Mali and Niger

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Sahel countries are confronted by many challenges that pose a threat to human security. Over the course of the last several years, human trafficking and smuggling of migrants have become issues of grave concern for West African countries in general, and more specifically those of the Sahel strip. Crime rates are augmenting in an unprecedented manner in these states, which are considered zones of origin, transit and destination for victims of trafficking and migrants destined for smuggling.

In view of this, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is working with the police academies and gendarmeries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in order to reinforce their training on organized crime, in particular that of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

As such, two successive training sessions in Bamako from 14-18 September 2015, and Niamey from 28 September to 02 October 2015, brought together 40 instructors specifically authorized by the two countries' police academies and gendarmeries. They benefited from special training covering the different steps involved in dealing with these two crimes, focusing on the rules governing investigations specific to this type of criminality, as well as on victim protection.

Participants during the training in Bamako
Participants during the training in Bamako

Capacity building of actors involved in the penal chain constitutes one of the major challenges in thwarting the operations of criminal organizations, and ultimately protecting victims of human trafficking and vulnerable migrants. The gendarmerie and police officers therefore play a leading role. An update of their training programmes is essential in order to adapt to the new forms of criminality.

As one participant put it, the training offered the opportunity "to tease out the exact nuances of these two crimes that are poorly understood by law enforcement officers, and to better understand the concepts and what is at stake, but also succeeded in spurring a greater engagement on the part of the defense and security forces".

This partnership complements UNODC technical assistance intended to reinforce states' judicial arsenal in order to prevent and punish infractions, while offering a framework for the protection and assistance of victims of trafficking and smuggling.

This initiative goes hand in hand with processes for sustainability and ownership of methods by the training schools in the field of organised crime in the beneficiary states, which have undertaken to include them in their initial and ongoing training programme. These efforts have been led within the context of the UNODC contribution to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, thanks to the financial contribution of Austria, as well as the UNODC Regional Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants 2015-2020.