Representatives from 41 countries in Asia and the Pacific concluded Wednesday the Fourth Bali Process conference with an endorsement of a non-binding regional framework for tackling people smuggling, claiming it was the most significant achievement ever made since the first conference in 2002.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the regional framework had been a long process since Indonesia and Australian initiated the Bali Process nine years ago.
“The framework we have reached is comprehensive and inclusive because these issues are multidimensional and multifaceted.
“We are now confident that we have strengthened the cooperation as well as the possibilities of further collaboration that all participants can carry out in future years,” he said.
The framework provides several options for practical action, including the development of bilateral arrangements to undermine people smuggling. It also suggested participating countries strengthen intelligence sharing and target people smuggling enterprises.
Other parts of the framework also suggested countries return immigrants found not to be in need of protection to their countries of origin, preferably on a voluntary basis. Participating states were also advised to address the root causes of irregular movement and promote population stabilization wherever possible.
Officials from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IMO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also supported the framework.
Marty highlighted the importance of the role of law enforcers to support the countries of the region in dealing with the issue.
“Our approach is multi-pronged. It involves not only socio-economic agencies, but also law enforcement agencies. We need to continue strengthening the capacity of our law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Marty’s Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, reiterated that people smuggling, trafficking in persons and other related transnational crimes had put enormous pressure on many countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
“41 million people in the world are displaced, 15.9 million are refugees. These issues are on the move, more than in any other time in history. There will be new transit countries; there will be new destination countries. The Bali Process is among 15 regional processes on the way, worldwide,” Rudd said, stressing how important the issues had become for many countries around the globe.
“This particular conference has been a milestone in the development of a coordinated approach by nations in and around Asia and the Pacific to address the challenges in this issue,” he added.