Do you suspect that a family member or friend is being targeted by a human trafficker in Pakistan? Have you had a similar experience yourself? Get in touch with us at aemen@joshandmak.com with your story and we will assist you in reporting them to the proper channels.Your reports of such gangs and networks can save lives and money of prospective victims.

Legal Updates: 22 July 2023

Legal Alert for Pakistanis: Be Aware of the Dangers of Irregular Migration, Human Trafficking, and Smuggling of Migrants

Travelling without proper legal documents, visas, or work permits, and crossing borders irregularly pose significant risks and legal consequences. To protect yourself and avoid falling victim to criminal groups and intermediaries, it is crucial to be cautious and vigilant when planning to travel abroad.

1. Risks of Irregular Migration: Travelling without the necessary legal documents exposes you to considerable risks. Crossing borders without a valid visa for the destination country is a violation of the law and can lead to serious consequences, including detention and deportation.

2. Beware of Criminal Groups and Intermediaries: Criminal groups and intermediaries take advantage of individuals seeking to travel illegally. They offer services, information, and documents at a high cost, often leading individuals into debt under harsh conditions. Relying on these intermediaries may expose you to violence, exploitation, or false promises of job opportunities abroad.

3. Trafficking in Persons: Migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in persons, a crime that involves exploiting individuals, especially women, children, and men, for forced labor or sexual exploitation. Be cautious of offers that seem too good to be true and be vigilant against potential human trafficking schemes.

4. Life-Threatening Risks: Criminal groups may charge exorbitant amounts for travel arrangements and expose you to life-threatening risks during the journey abroad. There is no guarantee that you will reach your intended destination, and your safety may be at stake throughout the journey.

5. Overstaying Visas and Work Permits: Even if you travel legally to another country, overstaying your visa or work permit makes you an irregular migrant. Being in a foreign country without proper documentation or legal permits puts you in a vulnerable situation and may lead to adverse consequences.

 It is essential to be well-informed and make informed decisions when planning to travel abroad. Avoid illegal migration and irregular crossings, as they pose significant risks and may lead to legal consequences. Be cautious of criminal groups and intermediaries promising easy solutions and opportunities abroad, as they often lead to exploitation and dangerous situations. Protect yourself and your loved ones by staying informed about the risks and dangers associated with irregular migration, human trafficking, and smuggling of migrants.

Legal Advice Note: Criminalization of Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants in Pakistan

Pakistan has taken significant steps to combat human trafficking and smuggling of migrants by enacting two important pieces of legislation: “The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018” and “The Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act, 2018.” These laws empower law enforcement agencies to effectively prosecute organized criminal groups involved in these crimes while ensuring the protection of the rights of victims.

Definition of Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) According to the Acts:

Smuggling of Migrants:

  • Type of Crime: Against the State
  • Purpose: To protect State Sovereignty
  • Relationship between Parties: Commercial relationship between smuggler and migrant, ends after reaching the destination.
  • Rationale: Organized movement of persons for profit.
  • Consent: Migrant consents to illegal border crossing.

Trafficking in Persons:

  • Type of Crime: Violation of human rights of a person.
  • Purpose: To protect the rights of individuals.
  • Relationship between Parties: Exploitative relationship between trafficker and victim, exploitation continues for profit.
  • Rationale: Organized recruitment/transport and continuous exploitation of the victim.
  • Consent: Either no consent or initial consent is made irrelevant due to force, deception, or coercion at any stage.

Human Trafficking in Persons: Human trafficking involves the acquisition of people through improper means like force, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploitation, such as forced labor or commercial sex acts. It is a serious offense under the Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018.

Smuggling of Migrants: Smuggling of migrants is the facilitation, for financial or other material benefit, of illegal entry of a person into a country of which the person is not a national or resident. The Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act, 2018, addresses this crime in Pakistan.

 It is crucial for individuals to be aware of the differences between human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The criminalization of these activities under the respective acts is aimed at protecting the rights of individuals and preserving state sovereignty. If you or someone you know becomes a victim of human trafficking or smuggling of migrants, it is essential to seek legal assistance immediately. Law enforcement agencies are equipped to prosecute offenders and provide support to victims in accordance with the law. Stay vigilant and report any suspicious activities related to these crimes to the relevant authorities.

Public Alert: Irregular Migration and Human Trafficking

Irregular Migration: Irregular migration refers to the movement of persons outside the laws, regulations, or international agreements governing entry into or exit from a country. It can occur in both the country of origin and the destination country. The following scenarios may indicate irregular migration:

  1. Entering a Country Illegally: Crossing an international boundary without a valid passport or travel document or failing to fulfill administrative requirements for leaving the country.
  2. Avoiding Migration Inspection: Evading official migration inspections or checks.
  3. Using False Documents: Entering a country with fraudulent documents or visas.
  4. Breaking Visa Conditions: Overstaying or working without the necessary permit as per immigration regulations.
  5. Lack of Documentation: Not possessing valid identification papers, such as a missing, stolen, lost, or taken passport.
  6. Staying after Negative Asylum Decision: Remaining in a country after receiving a negative decision on an asylum application.
  7. Born into Irregularity: Being born to parents who are irregular migrants.
  8. Being Smuggled into a Country: Entering a country illegally with the assistance of smugglers.

Human Trafficking: Human trafficking involves three key elements, as defined in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol:

  1. The Act: Recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving persons.
  2. The Means: Using force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or providing payments or benefits to control victims.
  3. The Purpose: Exploitation, which can include forced labor, sexual exploitation, slavery, removal of organs, or other similar practices.

To determine whether a particular circumstance constitutes human trafficking, consider the above elements and consult relevant domestic legislation that defines the offense of trafficking.

Conclusion: Both irregular migration and human trafficking are serious issues that can put individuals at great risk. It is essential to be aware of the potential dangers associated with irregular migration and the various forms of human trafficking. If you suspect human trafficking or encounter irregular migration situations, report them to the relevant authorities to protect yourself and others from exploitation and abuse.

Identifying Human Smugglers in Pakistan

Human smuggling, the illegal arrangement of perilous journeys for individuals seeking a better life abroad, is a thriving yet illicit business in Pakistan. These agents operate openly, particularly on social media platforms, enticing desperate people with promises of reaching European shores, but at a significant cost. It is crucial to identify and expose these human smugglers to prevent further tragedies and protect vulnerable individuals from falling into their traps.

1. Social Media and Jargon: Human smugglers have adopted a brazen approach, using social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok to lure their victims. Entire Facebook groups are dedicated to their illicit trade. They employ coded jargon, referring to illegal boat crossings as “dunkies” and categorizing journeys as “road game,” “ship game,” or “taxi game.” This accessibility makes reaching out to these smugglers as simple as messaging someone on social media.

2. Exploiting Desperation: These agents offer various routes, including flight paths with multiple stops and illegal sea crossings, to individuals seeking to leave Pakistan. They exploit people’s desperation for a better life and demand exorbitant sums ranging from 2.3 million to 3.5 million rupees. To make the payments, families often sell off properties, jewelry, and exhaust their life savings, putting immense financial strain on them.

3. Collaboration and Networks: Human smuggling is a lucrative business, and smugglers collaborate with local enforcement authorities, border officials, airlines, and travel agencies. They also have “sub-agents” in other countries. The involvement of corrupt individuals facilitates their operations, making it challenging for law enforcement agencies to track them down.

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4. FIA’s Challenges: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is the primary law enforcement authority responsible for addressing human smuggling in Pakistan. However, it has faced criticism for its inability to dismantle trafficking networks, with accusations ranging from negligence to complicity. It is essential for the FIA to hold any of its members involved in human smuggling accountable.

5. Rising Trends and Socioeconomic Impact: The worsening economic situation has led to a spike in people attempting to leave Pakistan through illegal means. Smugglers are now targeting middle-class families, not just lower-income groups. This shift in demographics highlights the urgent need to address the root causes of illegal migration.

6. Overcoming Challenges: Identifying human smugglers requires extensive efforts and cooperation. Authorities must recognize that smugglers can be anyone, from laborers to legitimate travel agents, and that they operate within strong networks. Overcoming this challenge necessitates collective action, increased awareness, and stringent law enforcement measures.

To combat human smuggling in Pakistan effectively, a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Strengthening legal channels for migration, prosecuting traffickers, and providing support to the victims’ families are crucial steps in curbing this illicit trade. Heightened vigilance and collaboration between law enforcement agencies and communities will help protect vulnerable individuals from falling prey to the ruthless tactics of human smugglers. By raising awareness and taking decisive action, we can collectively work towards a safer and more secure future for all.

Legal Advice Note: Pakistan’s Legal Framework to Address Human Smuggling and Trafficking

Pakistan has made significant strides in addressing human smuggling and trafficking by signing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and ratifying the Palermo Protocol. However, there have been challenges in the legal framework and policy focus on this critical area of organized crime.

1. Differentiation between Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling: Pakistan has responded to treaty obligations and international scrutiny by enacting two federal laws – the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2018 and the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act 2018. These laws distinguish between trafficking and smuggling, safeguard the rights of victims, and empower law enforcement agencies to effectively prosecute the organized gangs involved in these crimes.

2. Legal Protections for Children: Recent legislation, such as the ICT Child Protection Act 2018, Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act 2016, and Zainab Alert Act 2020, provides legal protections to children and enhances the state’s ability to punish offenders involved in crimes against children, including child pornography, cruelty, and sexual abuse.

3. Prostitution and Homosexuality: Prostitution is not recognized legally in Pakistan, leading to legal denial and the criminalization of victims. Homosexuality is criminalized under Section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Efforts should be made to address these legal gaps and ensure the protection of vulnerable individuals involved in sex work and LGBTQ+ communities.

4. Bonded Labour: While bonded labour was abolished in 1992, it has become a provincial subject after the 18th Constitutional Amendment. The issue is yet to be addressed uniformly across all provinces, with Punjab adopting the federal law under the Punjab Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act in 1992.

In light of these challenges, it is crucial for Pakistan to continue refining its legal framework and strengthen policy focus on combating human smuggling and trafficking. Authorities must ensure effective implementation of the enacted laws, promote coordination among relevant agencies, and provide support to victims to break free from exploitation. Additionally, addressing legal gaps related to prostitution and bonded labour can further strengthen the country’s efforts in curbing these grave violations of human rights.

Proposed Amendments to Trafficking in Person Act, 2018 Following Tragic Shipwreck Incident

In response to the tragic shipwreck incident off the coast of Greece, where over 80 Pakistanis lost their lives and hundreds are reported missing, the federal government of Pakistan has decided to amend the Trafficking in Person Act, 2018.

The proposed amendment aims to categorize human smuggling and human trafficking as non-bailable offences. Additionally, individuals involved in such heinous activities will face severe consequences as their bank accounts and assets will be subject to freezing.

The Government acknowledged that there are flaws in the existing law concerning human smuggling and trafficking. To address the issue effectively, a high-level committee, headed by a grade 22 officer, has been established to examine the matter in detail.

The Government is currently working on three key aspects, with a primary focus on holding those responsible for the recent accidents and tragedies accountable. State officials expressed concerns about the lack of convictions in human smuggling and trafficking cases over the past five years, with affected families often resorting to reconciliation.

Highlighting the illegal migration routes, it was pointed out that individuals attempting to reach Europe often have contact with Egypt, Libya, and the UAE for visa issuance. To combat illegal migration and prevent future tragedies, the government plans to present comprehensive recommendations and implement necessary measures.

It was also emphasized that legal travel from Pakistan to countries like Egypt, Libya, and the UAE is permissible. However, individuals resort to illegal means of migration after arriving in these countries.

As the government seeks to amend the Trafficking in Person Act, 2018, and take proactive measures against human trafficking and smuggling, the proposed legislation is currently in progress. This step is expected to strengthen the legal framework and deter perpetrators from engaging in such criminal activities that result in loss of lives and human suffering.

Legal Alert: Transnational Crime Web – Human Trafficking/Migrant Smuggling

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling are serious transnational crimes with multi-dimensional complexities. To effectively combat and dismantle this international crime web, a consolidated and well-coordinated effort is crucial. A coordinated approach is required from the origin of the victim, through the transit route, to their final destination. Any coordination gap within a country or between international agencies can render efforts fruitless and futile. Several departments and agencies play vital roles in addressing this issue, ensuring coordination and cooperation:

  1. AHTC Working (Anti-Human Smugglers/Trafficking Circle): AHTCs are operational units tasked with curbing human smuggling and trafficking. They collect intelligence, conduct raids, and investigate cases for prosecution. Ensuring collaboration between AHTCs and relevant agencies is essential to effectively combat these crimes.
  2. Forged Documentation: Human traffickers and smugglers often use forged documents to facilitate travel abroad. Concerned departments must collaborate to adopt measures that prevent document forgery and facilitate the collection of solid evidence in these cases.
  3. Cyber Crime Cell of the FIA Pakistani: Human trafficking and smuggling networks utilize the internet as a means of communication. The Cyber Crime Cell intercepts these communications and takes action against traffickers/smugglers involved in online activities.
  4. Interpol: Interpol plays a significant role in combatting transnational crimes. It issues Red notices against proclaimed offenders involved in human trafficking and smuggling, aiding in their identification and apprehension.
  5. Anti-Money Laundering Cell: Human trafficking payments often occur through illegal channels, such as Hundi/Hawala. The Anti-Money Laundering Cell monitors illegal money transfers and investigates suspected accounts associated with human trafficking networks.

To effectively combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling, a well-coordinated effort among these departments and agencies is imperative. The collaboration and exchange of information between national and international entities will enhance the capacity to detect, investigate, and prosecute offenders involved in these heinous crimes. Heightened vigilance, intelligence gathering, and proactive measures by the FIA  will be instrumental in dismantling this transnational crime web and protecting vulnerable individuals from exploitation.

Legal Update – July 18, 2023: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Pakistan has taken decisive action against human smugglers following a tragic incident where a fishing boat carrying up to 750 refugees capsized off the coast of Greece. The FIA has arrested dozens of individuals involved in the illegal business and is committed to dismantling the entire network of agents and operators engaged in such activities.

The issue of migration, both legal and illegal, has been a long-standing concern in Pakistan, but in recent times, there has been a surge in people seeking better livelihoods due to economic challenges, high inflation, rising unemployment, and an unstable political climate. The deteriorating economic and political conditions have prompted many individuals, especially youngsters from rural areas, to aspire for a better life abroad.

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Migration has been an integral part of Pakistani history, with a significant number of families having members living abroad. The belief in making a better life for their families and the allure of greener pastures have motivated many to attempt treacherous journeys, despite the known dangers.

The FIA has been actively collaborating with other regulatory bodies, including the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), to address the issue of  illegal human trafficking. Despite introducing legislation to curb illegal migration in 2018, the problem persists due to the underlying economic and social motivations driving individuals to seek better opportunities abroad.

Agents who facilitate illegal migration have adapted to social media platforms like TikTok to market their services, targeting vulnerable individuals seeking opportunities outside the country. The FIA has intensified its efforts to combat illegal migration, making numerous arrests and collaborating with airlines and border management systems.

Although the FIA faces challenges, including victims retracting statements and individuals traveling with valid visas to the first location, efforts are underway to prevent human trafficking and protect the vulnerable from exploitation.

While the FIA’s crackdown on human smugglers is commendable, the root causes driving illegal migration need to be addressed through comprehensive socio-economic measures to dissuade individuals from embarking on dangerous journeys in pursuit of better opportunities abroad.

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The recent tragedy in Greece, where hundreds of Pakistanis lost their lives while attempting to cross borders illegally, highlights the gravity of the global issue of human smuggling and illegal migration. Although the crisis is not exclusive to Pakistan, the country plays a significant role in this complex web involving transnational actors, making it a challenging problem to address for any singular agency. This article delves into the intricate routes and methods used by human smugglers in Pakistan, the coordination between international agencies, the categorization of migrants, and the need for a broader strategy to tackle the root causes of this crisis.

Routes and Methods of Human Smuggling:

In Pakistan, human smugglers use various routes to transport people to their desired destinations. One commonly used route starts from Karachi and moves through RCD Highway to Taftan, then Zahedan (Iran), and onwards to Turkey and Europe. Other routes include Karachi to Sistan-Baluchistan via Lasbela and Kech districts and Quetta to Taftan, Mashkel, or Rajay in western Balochistan.

The sea route involves traveling to Gwadar district via the Coastal Highway from Karachi, which allows people to avoid dangerous insurgency-hit areas further inside Makran. The increasing difficulty of crossing Afghanistan’s Nimruz province led Afghans to be smuggled through Balochistan, particularly the deserted area near the Pak-Afghan border in Chaghi.

Challenges in Curbing Human Smuggling:

Local Pakistani agents facilitate illegal border crossings but hand over migrants to agents of other countries for further transportation. This makes it challenging for local authorities to stop the subsequent developments, as their jurisdiction is limited to local boundaries. To address this, the FIA has signed multilateral and bilateral agreements with different countries and established offices in Iran, Oman, Greece, Spain, and the UK for information exchange. However, the effectiveness of these agreements remains questionable.

Additionally, the network of traffickers is highly organized and involved in various illegal activities, including money laundering, narcotics, and other forms of smuggling. They use similar routes for different illegal acts, making it even more difficult to combat the issue effectively.

Categorizing Migrants: Economic Refugees and Climate Refugees:

The majority of migrants globally are people fleeing war and conflict zones like Ukraine and Syria, categorized as “war refugees.” However, most irregular migrants leaving Pakistan are often classified as “economic refugees.” It is essential to understand that economic migrants are rarely just economic migrants; their decision to leave is often influenced by a mix of factors, including security, well-being, and various precarities.

The chronic climate crisis in recent years has also forced thousands to be internally and externally displaced, giving rise to “climate refugees.” These individuals may not face immediate threats to their lives but are compelled to migrate due to environmental factors and limited economic opportunities.

Addressing the Root Causes:

To effectively address the illegal migration crisis, a comprehensive approach is needed, going beyond legislation. Improving living conditions, providing avenues for productive work and leisure activities, and raising awareness about the dangers of the journey are crucial steps. Society must discourage illegal migration while offering viable opportunities to discourage people from resorting to such perilous journeys.

The issue of human smuggling and illegal migration is a global problem with profound local impacts. Pakistan is just one part of the broader crisis, and addressing it requires coordinated efforts among various countries and agencies. A multifaceted approach focusing on the root causes, categorization of migrants, and awareness campaigns can help alleviate the suffering and tragedies associated with illegal migration. Only through collective action can we hope to provide a safer and more secure future for those affected by this challenging issue.

Legal Advice Note: Addressing Human Trafficking in Pakistan

  1. Government Efforts and Tier 2 Status: Pakistan was upgraded to Tier 2 in the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State. While the government has made significant efforts to combat human trafficking, it does not fully meet the minimum standards for elimination. Improvements in victim identification, sex trafficking investigations, and prosecutions have been observed, but challenges persist, particularly concerning corrupt officials and their lack of accountability in trafficking-related allegations.
  2. Bonded Labor as a Major Concern: The most significant human trafficking problem in Pakistan is bonded labor. This practice traps workers in perpetual debt as their debt increases with time, affecting not only the individual but also their family members for generations. Other trafficking issues in Pakistan include prostitution slavery, forced marriages, child soldiers, manual labor, and forced begging, where children are forced to beg on the streets, sometimes being physically harmed to elicit sympathy money. Trafficking rings operate with organized systems for each crime, including the sale of victims in physical markets.
  3. Global Action to Prevent Trafficking: Pakistan joined The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants Act (GLO.ACT) in 2017, initiated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU). The project encompasses strategic policies, legislative assistance, capacity building, regional cooperation, protection and assistance to victims, and a public awareness campaign.
  4. Recommended Actions and Hope for the Future: The U.S. Department of State recommends that Pakistan pass an anti-trafficking law criminalizing all forms of human trafficking, and implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to rehabilitation services. By taking these actions, Pakistan can progress to Tier 1 status, signifying compliance with minimum standards for human trafficking.

It is crucial for organizations and governments like UNODC and the U.S. Department of State to continue their efforts in combatting human trafficking, offering hope to victims and paving the way for a brighter future in Pakistan. Despite the challenges, there are stories of redemption and resilience, as individuals like the young girl from the beginning of this article demonstrate their determination to overcome adversity and pursue a better future.

Facts About Human Trafficking in Pakistan

  1. Tier 2 Ranking in Trafficking in Persons Report: In the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, Pakistan was upgraded to Tier 2 by the U.S. Department of State. This indicates that the government is making significant efforts to combat trafficking but has not fully met the minimum standards for elimination. The main challenge lies in inadequate government efforts, particularly concerning corrupt officials who are not held accountable for their involvement in trafficking.
  2. Bonded Labor as the Largest Problem: Pakistan’s most significant human trafficking problem is bonded labor, where workers incur an unpayable debt, leading to a cycle of exploitation that can last for generations. Other trafficking issues in Pakistan include prostitution slavery, forced marriages, child soldiers, manual labor, and forced begging, with trafficking rings employing structured systems for each crime, including selling victims in a physical market.
  3. The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking: Pakistan joined The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants Act (GLO.ACT) in July 2017, launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU). The project includes various responses, such as strategy and policy development, legislative assistance, capacity building, cooperation, protection and assistance to victims, and a public awareness campaign.
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The U.S. Department of State recommends Pakistan to pass an anti-trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of human trafficking and implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to rehabilitation services to move towards achieving Tier 1 status, indicating compliance with minimum standards for human trafficking prevention and elimination.

Legal Note: Migrant Smuggling and Pakistan’s Legislative Response

Introduction: Migrant smuggling, also known as human smuggling, refers to the provision of services, such as transportation or fraudulent documents, to individuals seeking illegal entry into a foreign country. It involves movement across international borders, often through illegal means, with the consent of the smuggled person. The UN Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air defines migrant smuggling as the procurement, for financial or material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or permanent resident.

Extent of Migrant Smuggling in Pakistan: Pakistan serves as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to migrant smuggling. Vulnerable groups, especially girls and women, are at a higher risk of becoming victims of this crime. Pakistani migrants are often smuggled to Gulf States, Iran, Turkey, South Africa, Southeast Asian countries, and various European countries. The true scale of transnational migrant smuggling in Pakistan is not accurately monitored, leading to uncertainties in data collection. Tragic incidents, such as boat wrecks in 2023 off the Italian and Libyan coasts, have highlighted the risks faced by illegal migrants, including Pakistanis.

International Response: Migrant smuggling is recognized as transnational organized crime under international law. To address this global issue, the United Nations adopted the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Pakistan ratified the UN Convention in 2010 but has not yet ratified the Smuggling Protocol.

Legislative Measures in Pakistan: In 2018, Pakistan enacted the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act 2018 (PSOM Act 2018) to distinguish between human trafficking and human smuggling and to fulfill its international treaty obligations. This act replaced the outdated Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance 2002, which failed to adequately address the issue of human smuggling. The PSOM Act 2018 is a significant step towards safeguarding the human rights of smuggled migrants.

Implementation and Law Enforcement: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for implementing the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act 2018 and addressing migrant smuggling in Pakistan. According to FIA’s latest Annual Report on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling, several cases were registered, investigated, and prosecuted under the PSOM Act 2018 in the year 2021. The agency identified accused individuals involved in smuggling and provided legal support to victims.

Conclusion: Migrant smuggling poses significant challenges in Pakistan, and the government has taken steps to address this transnational organized crime through legislative measures. The enactment of the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act 2018 marked a crucial development in safeguarding the rights of smuggled migrants. However, continuous efforts, coordination, and international cooperation remain essential to combat this serious issue effectively.

Legal Note: Trafficking for Forced Migrant Smuggling

: Apart from sex and labor trafficking, another prevalent form of trafficking affecting men and boys traveling on migration routes to the European Union (EU) is forced criminal activities, particularly migrant smuggling. Unaccompanied Afghan and Pakistani boys and young men in Greece, Serbia, and Hungary are coerced into providing various migrant smuggling services. Similarly, men and boys are forced by smugglers to navigate boats from Turkey to Greece and from Libya to Italy.

Forced Migrant Smuggling:

  1. Exploitative Practices: Interviews conducted during research in Greece revealed instances where Afghani and Pakistani boys, seeking to cross the Evros region (the land border between Turkey and Greece), were initially quoted a fee of €1,000 by smugglers. However, upon crossing, they were informed that the price had increased to €1,500, which they could not afford. As a result, they were compelled to smuggle people to repay their debt, leading to their arrest as smugglers while being victims of trafficking.
  2. Forced Navigation: Migrant smugglers also force people, to navigate boats across the Central Mediterranean Sea. In many instances, people are coerced into piloting the boat against their will.

Paradox of ‘Vulnerable Groups’:

  1. Vulnerability of Boys and Men: Boys and men are significantly impacted by this form of trafficking for forced criminality. However, service providers and organizations along the migration route often assume that teenage boys and young men are more resilient to abuse and trafficking. This misconception renders them more vulnerable in reality.
  2. Access to Services: Paradoxically, individuals considered the most vulnerable, such as young children or women traveling alone, tend to have better access to protection services and increased resilience in transit and destination countries in Europe.

Conclusion: The trafficking of men and boys for forced migrant smuggling is a serious concern along migration routes to the EU. The paradox of ‘vulnerable groups’ highlights the need for a more nuanced approach to addressing trafficking issues. Recognizing the vulnerability of boys and young men in this context and providing them with appropriate protection and support services is crucial to effectively combatting this form of trafficking. Moreover, comprehensive efforts should be undertaken to curb the exploitative practices of migrant smugglers and protect the rights and well-being of all individuals, regardless of their perceived vulnerability.

 Abuse of a Position of Vulnerability Caused by the Need for Migrant Smuggling

Introduction: The lack of legal channels for migration and seeking asylum, coupled with restricted transit options along migration routes, has led to widespread use of migrant smuggling services. The closure of borders in March 2016 further exacerbated the demand for such services, as it became increasingly challenging to transit to intended destination countries. Vulnerabilities to trafficking arise either directly through interactions with smugglers or as a consequence of the need to pay for their services. These vulnerabilities make people susceptible to exploitation, particularly labor exploitation.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Expand Regular Travel Alternatives: To reduce the reliance on irregular and dangerous journeys with migrant smugglers, it is crucial to significantly increase the range of alternatives for regular travel for refugees and migrants. This includes creating opportunities for regular migration (e.g., labor migration and family reunification) and establishing programs for regular travel for refugees, such as resettlement, community sponsorship, and humanitarian visas.
  2. Facilitate Legal Transit: For individuals who cannot access legal opportunities for travel, allowing legal transit through countries along migration routes is essential. Legal and swift transit can enhance resilience to trafficking and other abuses. Regularizing and registering transit can also help build trust between individuals and authorities.
  3. Combat Forced Migrant Smuggling: Recognize forced migrant smuggling as a form of human trafficking. Implement necessary legal amendments to ensure that anti-trafficking stakeholders are informed, trained, and adequately resourced to identify cases where apparent migrant smuggling perpetrators are, in fact, victims of trafficking for forced migrant smuggling. Protect the victims and prosecute the actual perpetrators involved in trafficking.
  4. Non-Punishment of Trafficked Persons: Ensure that individuals who have been trafficked for forced migrant smuggling or other forced criminal activities are not penalized for these crimes. Undertake legal and administrative amendments to effectively implement non-punishment provisions and provide appropriate training to relevant stakeholders. The actual perpetrators should be brought to justice.
  5. Special Protection Measures: Implement specific protection measures for girls, boys, women, and men, considering the unique needs of women and children. Recognize that men and boys can also be vulnerable, especially unaccompanied and separated boys. Denying men and boys access to protection and essential services by not considering them vulnerable groups renders them more susceptible to trafficking and other abuses.

Addressing the abuse of a position of vulnerability caused by the need for migrant smuggling requires comprehensive measures to create legal and safe avenues for migration and to combat human trafficking associated with forced migrant smuggling. By expanding regular travel alternatives, facilitating legal transit, prosecuting traffickers, and providing specialized protection measures, authorities can mitigate vulnerabilities along migration routes and protect the rights and safety of migrants and refugees.

By The Josh and Mak Team

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