United Nations should regulate people smuggling industry?

Australian human rights organisation Project Safecom releases a timely and important press release today that won’t receive the serious consideration it deserves:

“Ultimately the United Nations has no choice but to regulate the international informal travel broker industry in order to minimise deaths at sea and in order to separate fly-by-night opportunistic profiteers from the family-based and ethnically-based small networks or other professional operators that assist asylum seekers to reach shelter in destination countries,” WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

“We join with others in acknowledging with regret the massive loss of life at sea as news emerges of the shipwreck of a vessel 90 kilometers off the coast of Java after its departure from West Java’s coastal capital of Cilapak, but we don’t join with those who once again just throw around worn-out statements about “evil people smugglers”, even while it seems clear that the boat was overloaded to ridiculous levels,” spokesman Jack H Smit said.

“The UN has already ‘painted itself into a corner’ with the establishment of the 2001 UN People Smuggling Protocol. Even so, it needs to realise that if the world community (and more particularly those countries that are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention) is unwilling to pro-actively assist to prevent the need to have unregulated people movements around the globe – a phenomenon that we expect to only increase as climate change and local unrest increases – by opening its borders to asylum seekers – that the informal travel movement is here to stay,” spokesman Jack H Smit said.

“If Australia is unwilling to increase UNHCR resources in Indonesia by a factor of ten or twenty or thirty, and if it is unwilling to fiercely lobby ASEAN countries for resettlement with full civil rights of asylum seekers BEFORE they board boats, the situation will remain the same. As long as Australia is ignoring its dramatic regional shortfall in service provision and as long as it refuses to assist asylum seekers in Indonesia, Australia’s inaction will be the most important factor in people jumping on boats to seek out protection under the UN Charter.”

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