The Regional Support Office of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and related Transnational Crime (RSO) marked its tenth anniversary with the Border and Technology Forum: Countering People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. The event took place in Bangkok, Thailand from 26-27 October 2022.
The Forum brought together Member States to discuss challenges in tackling trafficking in persons and people smuggling – as of mid-2021, Asia and the Pacific hosted 4.22 million refugees and asylum seekers, accounting for 17 per cent of global numbers.
Global estimates for this period indicated a shocking 50 million people living in modern slavery, with transnational criminal organisations identifying opportunistic spaces to grow activity and target victims online following international border closures and Covid-19 lockdowns.
Some 88 delegates attended the RSO’s 10th anniversary border forum, coming together in-person from 24 Bali Process Member States, four international organisations and eight Observers. Delegates working across law enforcement, border security, human rights and policy will discuss how technology tools can be used in prevention, disruption, investigation and response activities – and how governments and law enforcement can best work collaboratively for effective uptake and implementation of digital technology solutions at borders and across law enforcement activities.
Sessions included presentations to share best practice and learnings from across the region, and small group work sessions to help shape future work. Topics included the use of technology to disrupt transnational crime, the evolution of legislative powers in response to changing technology advances and communication methods, the responsible and ethical use of biometric technology, and practical demonstrations of toolkits to support border officials in identifying and referring trafficking victims for support.
Delegates identified emerging key issues and priorities across the following themes:
- Understanding and harnessing the latest technology such as the use of biometrics and an integrated border management systems – including risks in removing human interaction in border movement/control and potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities associated with a biometrics system.
- Responding to and pre-empting online trends (of particular concern were the ongoing call centre scams affecting Bali Process member states, and delegates acknowledged the need for Bali Process Members to strengthen their understating of the latest trends and the ways people are communicating online).
- Staying one step ahead by equipping and upskilling the law enforcement and border management workforce (a common concern across all attendees despite the considerable range in capacity across member states).
- The evolution of legislation to enable access to digital evidence and the importance of communicating legislation and policy evolution clearly to the public.
- Accessing and sharing data across borders, particularly given the role of technology in facilitating trans-national crime.
- Building public awareness around trafficking risks and the online landscape, especially given the increasing penetration and uptake of technology and internet access in Bali Process member states.