Central, North American Countries Worked on Joint Strategy Against Migrant Smuggling with IOM, UNODC support

9 April, 2018

The Regional Director of IOM for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Marcelo Pisani gave the opening remarks of the regional meeting, along with representatives of UNODC, and the Governments of Costa Rica and Panama.


San Jose – Sixty representatives from the 11 Member States of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica, Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 March to promote medium and long-term joint strategic policies and actions to tackle the multi-billion illegal industry of migrant smuggling.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that two of the principal smuggling routes – leading from East, North and West Africa to Europe and from South America to North America – generate about USD 6.75 billion a year for migrant smugglers. These criminals get rich while subjecting migrants to dangers including robbery, sexual abuse, human trafficking, kidnapping, forced recruitment by drug cartels, and even death due to inhumane conditions along the smuggling route.

The regional workshop was envisaged to provide the necessary inputs to develop, a counter-smuggling regional work plan for the first time, to strengthen regional coordination, set common regional goals regarding the fight against migrant smuggling – including protection of the most vulnerable migrants – and enable the development of standardized operating procedures.

In 2016 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, developed and submitted a set of recommendations for strengthening the regional strategy against the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to the RCM. The establishment of a regional counter-smuggling action plan was one of the recommendations.

“While it is indisputable that each country in the region has made remarkable progress – regarding intelligence processes and promoting cooperation through the implementation of various regional efforts – common regional objectives and actions must be implemented in the medium term to be strengthened and framed within a regional strategy,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

The Costa Rican General Director of Migration, Gisela Yockchen, said that “only with a clear political commitment and a regional approach will we be able to find solutions that promote safe and regular migration. This work plan will strengthen a common approach from our governments to combat the networks linked to organized crime and the smuggling of migrants.”

The workshop was attended by prosecutors working on crimes associated with migrant smuggling, as well as immigration and police officers, from Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the United States.

This meeting was organized by the RCM (also known as the Puebla Process), a multilateral mechanism for coordinating policies and actions relating to migration in the 11 member states. The event was supported by the IOM Mesoamerica Program, funded by the US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, as well as the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program of the Government of Canada.