Sagala stresses need for strong legal framework to counter smuggling of illegal migrants


Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka has recently emphasized the need for strengthening the country’s legal framework to counter smuggling of illegal migrants.

Addressing the commencement of the the second phase of the Project RELAY facilitated by Interpol, the Minister said the absence, or inadequacy, of legislation to address the issue meant that smugglers of illegal migrants could continue to operate, with little or no fear of being apprehended.

The project was launched by Interpol to deliver training to law enforcement officials, investigators and front-line border units against smuggling of illegal migrants.

The Minister also said, "the connection between immigration officials and smugglers in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India leads to dysfunctional immigration screening, allowing migrants to travel without any trouble despite having incomplete or fraudulent documents.

 The Bitter reality is that genuine documents, such as passports or birth certificates, can be produced by bribing government officials in this part of the world – particularly in South Asia.

 There have been instances where it was reported that the officers of the Sri Lankan law enforcement system accepted bribes from agents in exchange for allowing their vessels to cross the sea border.

 We, as a government, have adopted various measures to counter illegal migrant smuggling in Sri Lanka. While strengthening our defence apparatus and the law enforcement system, we also work closely with our international partners on finding ways to counter this problem, in a sustainable manner.

 For example, we recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Australia to counter smuggling of illegal migrants, enabling even closer cooperation between the two countries in this regard.

 The MOU is aimed at facilitating the return to Sri Lanka of people who are involved in people smuggling activities. It also paves the way for enhanced information sharing on methods for tracking, intercepting and investigating people smugglers.

 For us, this is a work in progress. We are in the process of introducing necessary revisions and changes, having understood the gravity and the social impact of the problem.

 Another very important aspect of the ‘solution’ is good border management practices – a key focus of today’s event.

 Comprehensive and well-functioning border management structures should encompass and integrate both security and facilitation of legitimate cross-border flows of people and goods.

 It is important to understand that both these aspects of border management must complement and not contradict each other. 

 On a larger scale, this requires policy, legislation, administrative structures, operational systems and the human resource base necessary to respond more effectively and diligently to challenges and while instituting good migration governance.

Many international partners and organisations working on the issue agree that the smuggling of migrants is by nature a transnational crime.

 Therefore, At the centre of combating the migrant smuggling is the need to increase international cooperation, reinforce national coordination and ensure that the laws in the countries involved are harmonized in order to close loopholes and chinks in their systems.

 Law enforcement mechanisms within countries of origin, transit and destination – all should work in synch and with great understanding, with continuous assistance from global supporting networks."

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