We, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Australia, had the honour to co-chair the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime in Bali, Indonesia on 23 March 2016.
Ministers acknowledged the unprecedented levels of displacement and mobility seen globally since the last Ministerial Conference. There had been a surge in irregular movements of persons in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in the first half of 2015, with high fatality rates recorded. Recognising the need for an urgent, and collective response, members adopted a Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Attachment A) to reinforce their commitment to tackling these complex challenges.
Ministers welcomed progress since the last Ministerial Conference and agreed on a strong program of activities to move the Bali Process forward. Ministers recommended that members review the region's response to Andaman Sea situation of May 2015 to share lessons and work to implement necessary improvements. Ministers agreed the review would consider options for improving national, regional and subregional contingency planning and preparedness for potential large influxes of irregular migrants in the future.
In this context, Ministers welcomed the important contribution of the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in helping states to address the challenges posed by irregular migration. The meeting recalled in particular the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the five action areas outlined by the UN Secretary General at the General Assembly Plenary Session on irregular migrants (20 November 2015).
Ministers further welcomed national and regional efforts to date to respond in a timely manner to the irregular movements in the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean, including the Special Meetings on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean (29 May and 4 December 2015); the Special Retreat on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean (1 February 2016, Bangkok); the Emergency ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime: Irregular Movement of Persons in the Southeast Asia Region (2 July 2015); and the Jakarta Declaration Roundtable Meeting on Addressing the Root Causes of Irregular Movement of Persons (27-28 November 2015). The Ministers looked forward to the UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants (to be held in the General Assembly in September 2016).
Ministers further acknowledged the need for more agile, timely responses by Bali Process members. To this end, Ministers agreed to have a mechanism which would authorise the Co-Chairs to consult, and if necessary, convene future meetings to discuss urgent irregular migration issues with affected and interested countries in response to current regional issues or future emergency situations. Participation in the mechanism will be voluntary and non-binding.
Ministers noted that more concerted efforts were needed to address the root causes of irregular migration. Until these underlying causes are addressed, people will continue risking their lives on smugglers' boats. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of inclusive socio-economic development, full respect for human rights and measures to reduce statelessness.
Ministers noted the importance of civil registration in border management and in providing basic protection for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Ministers welcomed advice that a toolkit is being developed to help states strengthen their systems for registering births, deaths and marriages. The project seeks to expand registration and documentation coverage, and in turn, enhance the capacity of states to identify and provide protection to at-risk populations. Member countries were encouraged to participate in the project.
Ministers underscored the importance of addressing humanitarian and protection needs in managing irregular migration. Ministers directed that members give priority to coordinating procedures for rescue at sea, identifying predictable places for disembarkation, improving reception and screening systems, and engaging civil society in delivery of post-disembarkation emergency assistance. Ministers also highlighted the importance of temporary protection and local stay arrangements and recommended research into their viability.
Ministers further highlighted the importance of information dissemination to raise awareness of the risk of irregular sea voyages, using social media and other innovative platforms. Ministers noted progress towards implementing joint, regional information campaigns, and encouraged this work to continue.
Ministers reinforced the need to expand safe, legal and affordable migration pathways, including labour migration and family reunification programs, to provide an alternative to dangerous, irregular movement. Ministers encouraged members to consider how labour migration opportunities can be opened up to persons with international protection needs.
Ministers noted that return of persons found not to be entitled to international protection was important to the integrity and efficiency of the orderly migration. Building on outcomes from a 2015 roundtable, Ministers agreed that a Technical Experts Group would be established to exchange best practices with respect to returns and reintegration. Model readmission agreements would also be developed for use by interested member states.
Ministers commended the efforts of the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons to strengthen criminal justice responses to trafficking. Ministers welcomed advice that two sets of policy guides have been developed to assist member states criminalise people smuggling and trafficking in persons, and to improve identification and protection of trafficking victims. The guides have been translated into 14 regional languages and the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons continues to promote them at regional training. Ministers directed that members give priority to implementing the guides' best practice principles.
Ministers welcomed updates from states on progress to effectively criminalise people smuggling and trafficking in persons. Ministers noted the importance of complementary obligations to criminalise money laundering and proceeds of crime, in order to target the financial incentives for people smuggling and trafficking in persons. Ministers recommended that the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons deliver training and develop regional guidance on this topic to help countries further bolster their legal frameworks.
Ministers acknowledged the critical role of the private sector in preventing and detecting trafficking in persons. Ministers noted the importance of engaging constructively with private industry in a genuine partnership to combat trafficking in our region and promote good practices in their supply chains.
Ministers welcomed the establishment of a Working Group on Disruption of Criminal Syndicates involved in People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons. Ministers noted an update on the initial Joint Period of Action, which saw eight countries conduct separate, but coordinated, law enforcement operations against criminal syndicates. In total, authorities made 32 arrests and launched eight new investigations. Ministers commended the initiative as an example of successful operational outcomes that can be achieved when members work together in a practical way. Ministers recommended that the follow up Joint Period of Action focus on strengthening cross border cooperation.
Ministers further recommended that members maximise information-sharing networks to assist law enforcement and justice officials trace and recover criminal assets associated with people smuggling and trafficking across borders.
Ministers noted the value of biometric data sharing for verifying traveller identities and tracking migration flows. Ministers welcomed advice that a regional biometric data-sharing system has been developed. The voluntary, non-binding arrangement provides a secure, electronic means of sharing biometric data, within a policy framework that ensures privacy and data protection.
Ministers recognised the value of the Bali Process Strategy for Regional Cooperation in guiding the work of members and noted the Ad Hoc Group will continue updating it to reflect ministerial priorities.
II. Review of Progress since the Fifth Bali Process Ministerial Conference
Ministers acknowledged the Co-chairs' Statements from the AHG Senior Officials Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on 2 February 2016 and the report of activities implemented since the Fifth Bali Process Ministerial Conference as stated in the Senior Officials Meeting Co-chairs' Statement on 22 March 2016 (Attachment B).
Ministers commended member efforts in implementing Ministerial objectives set out at the Fifth Ministerial Conference in April 2013, as outlined in the Progress Report of the Ad Hoc Group. Ministers welcomed the funding and personnel contributions of members towards the Regional Support Office (RSO). Ministers encouraged countries to second officials to the RSO on a project basis.
The Sixth Ministerial Conference was attended by representatives of Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Fiji, France (New Caledonia), Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Lao PDR, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Syrian Arab Republic, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Canada, European Commission, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Labour Organization (ILO), INTERPOL and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) attended the meeting as observers.
- Ministers expressed its appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for its generosity and hospitality in hosting the Sixth Ministerial Conference.