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Podcast Episode 14
Host: Hello, my name is Claire Heffron, and welcome to this episode of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy podcast on the latest issues, advancing peace, security and international cooperation.
Host: The smuggling of migrants is a global concern, with a large number of countries affected by it as origin, transit or destination points. Profit seeking criminals smuggle migrants across borders. Assessing the real size of this crime is a complex matter. We discussed this issue with Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director of a Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, and as there are current challenges to European security and the rise of populist political movements, we spoke to Professor René Schowk, University of Geneva and Director of the Master of Advanced Studies in International and European Studies at the Global Studies Institute at the University of Geneva in partnership with the GCSP’s Leadership in International Security Course.
Host: People move to other countries for many reasons. But for undocumented migrants, it is nearly always for a better life. Profit seeking criminals exploit the lack of legal opportunities available to migrants and take advantage of their situation, but offering services at great cost. Earlier, we spoke to Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Firstly, how are human smugglers organising this crime?
Ms Tuesday Reitano: In a context where the legal avenues for migration have become drastically reduced over time, criminal networks, human smugglers have increasingly become the transport system for people who cannot move legally by themselves. So human smugglers facilitate irregular migration; they arrange transport; they make the migrant feel secure and confident in their journey. They provide the kind of services that we would expect from a facilitation or relocation broker if we were planning an international move.
Host: And how are migrants being protected?
Ms Tuesday Reitano: I think the question to ask is, first of all, is it only criminal networks who move people. So in the dynamics of human smuggling, a lot of people who facilitate the movement of irregular migrants aren't criminal networks, while their action is criminalised by the fact that they are helping people cross borders. They're not fundamentally an organised crime group, often their local, opportunistic entrepreneurs, or people who are looking to make extra money from helping somebody get across the border. So a lot of irregular migration, if not the vast majority is done by people as ordinary as you and me. And I personally don't think there there's an issue so much of protection, where the dynamic of protection of people on the move has come into play has been because either there's a very large scale of movement, perhaps from link to a conflict or because the challenges of making that journey which migrants seek is incredibly difficult. So if it's hard to cross a sea, it's hard to cross a desert, it's hard to cross a militarised border when the neighbouring state has deployed armed guards and drones. And there, that's when you find criminal networks who are facilitating irregular migration. In the dynamics of irregular migration, though, generally there are a lot of safeguards that are put in place to protect the migrant, and the migrants choose that, I mean, they are transporting the most valuable cargo that they have, which is themselves and the people they love. So in classic migration contexts, there are means of payment guarantees, so systems of escrow by which migrants might pay in advance, but they'll pay to a trusted third party, amounts of money will only be released when they complete successful steps in their journey. These kinds of things keep a migrant safer. What makes them less safe is where either you only see the apex pyramid of criminal groups who can facilitate journeys across a border and then they're very at risk of kidnapping for ransom or labour exploitation or sexual exploitation, or being asked to maybe carry other forms of contraband, drug smuggling along a particular journey. And when they themselves are vulnerable, so if they don't have much money to pay, if their states are not going to protect them, so they don't feel that they have any right of recourse, then they're vulnerable.
Host: And where are the migrant hotspots?
Ms Tuesday Reitano: The question around, you know, what are the hotspots? Where are the big flows? That changes over time. So it's almost a geopolitical question. Where are people moving from? And where are they trying to get to that defines the hotspots. There are globally speaking hubs that have endured over time, partly because the conditions that I've just spoken about stay stable, so big cities Bangkok is famed for being a hub for regular migration where lots of the ASEAN, neighbouring ASEAN, country people convene there. There is a lot of industry and economy and places to hide, places to work, criminal industries that have developed and embedded there. So a lot of these big economic hubs function in that way, Istanbul is another one. It's the gateway between Asia and Europe. So it's where you would expect them to be in some places, in some senses. But what we would do when we analyse migrant smuggling, you would look for the hubs and then you would look for the routes between those hubs and those can change a lot. But they, like all illicit industries, in some ways they track the licit industries. So where do people move to how do people get there? They go on roads, they go on boats, so the illicit just goes under the radar, but often along the same journey. So it's the underbelly, it's the shady parts.
Host: How are governments responding?
Ms Tuesday Reitano: Broadly, governments respond badly to transnational organised crime, particularly now, I think the overarching legal framework in the response to transnational organised crime is the UN Transnational Organised Crime Convention, UNTOC Convention, which has is one of the most highly ratified global treaties, actually, but it is a criminal justice instrument. So as would perhaps be intuitive when you think of transnational organised crime, you think crime you think, okay, crime is responded to by a policeman that's responded to by the criminal justice system. So those are the sets of responses. But what you have to I think, increasingly understand precisely because of the last point I made, which is that illicit activity is often very closely interrelated and shadows the licit industry, that there's a lot of socio-economic and political drivers to the illicit economy that the criminal justice system can't or won't capture. So if you go back to the question of irregular migration and a key part of the discussion we had today in the class was that you can't respond to the criminal aspects of the irregular migration facilitation, so the human smugglers or the trafficking without also addressing the drivers of migration, and the dynamics of migration, and criminal justice instruments aren't going to do that. So, really now at the cutting edge of the discussion around the response to transnational organised crime is the fact that you need integrated responses, you need to look at the underpinnings so what are the livelihoods in play? Who are the groups involved? How are they understood in their communities, and there's a big differentiation between the kinds of labour intensive illicit industries that involve a lot of people of which migration is one, but drug production is classically the other. So where you have enormous numbers of cocoa growers or opium producers versus those that maybe can be done by a very small number of people. And then look at the entire supply chain and movement of the commodities and the enablers of that. So all the people who sit in the essence of the elicits, but also those who sit on the borderlines, the money launderers, the lawyers who helped create the architecture by which illicit activity can be veiled, the political economy of protection and facilitation and corruption. I mean, it's a complex problem, and it's very deeply embedded now. And it is, I would say, one of the greatest yet lowest profiles of threats, unless a government chooses to change that. So whereas often terrorism, you get a lot of focus on that, but at the same time, terrorism kills less people, it costs less, it involves a smaller proportion of the population. But garners a huge response because it's very symbolic units very visible transnational organised crime is just a slow erosion, it's creeping again, shadow industry. And often there isn't an enormous amount of political will to underpin it. So you know, some say that it's in organised crime, it's in the illicit economies where we do what we really want to do, and nobody wants to close down those possibilities.
In the past 30 years, there has been a surge in international efforts to build peace and stability. This is translated into an increase in the number of military operations and diplomatic missions with broader mandates. I am Miriam Fugfugosh, the course director for the Skills Enhancement for Political Advisors course at the GCSP. Today, it is imperative for mission success to understand these highly complex and rapidly changing environments. One way to meet this need has been the more systematic inclusion of a political advisor or a POLAD. POLADs are instrumental actors in decision making processes, their contributions are of fundamental importance both on the ground and at an international level. Their duties require them to synthesise information rapidly, to develop a comprehensive understanding of the context and key issues and to convey the best most complete analysis to their principals and to their institutions, all while building and nurturing meaningful relationships. Strengths of effective POLADs are creative thinking, effective communication, interpersonal savviness, and resourcefulness. During this course, you will enhance these capacities with sessions on topics such as political and conflict analysis, intelligence analysis, effective messaging, political reporting, speech writing and briefing, negotiation, mediation, and trust building. The course methodology is highly interactive, substantive inputs are followed by small group work employing various case studies. The course structure facilitates continuous learning with experienced professionals, teaching staff and fellow participants. Join us and the growing network of political advisors amongst the GCSP alumni.
Host: Building security in an era of insecurity? Europe is constantly transforming in uncertain times. NATO is adapting. We had the chance to speak to Professor René Schwok, University of Geneva and Director of the Master of Advanced Studies in International and European Studies, part of the GCSP’s annual Leadership in International Security Course. Where do you see the future of NATO?
Professor René Schwok: The future of NATO is maybe not so terrible. I'm familiar with bandits, anticipating the death of NATO, since the early 90s. I've read about this. I've heard people claiming that NATO will disappear. Recently President Macron of France also said, NATO is in a “brain death” process. But I'm not so pessimistic. I think NATO countries still have a huge interest in staying together. And they don't have an alternative to US protection.
Host: And what are Europe's main security challenges?
Professor René Schwok: There are many challenges. And usually, we anticipate challenges and the problems are not what we anticipated. In the whole history of mankind, people anticipated one type of war, and it was another war which happened. So it's very difficult to anticipate what we don't know. But in my view, the most important problem is domestic. So the surge of populist parties and forces in Europe who challenge what has been successful in Europe since the end of the Second World War, so if, for instance, if in Italy, there is a government dominated by a far right party, it could be a major problem because this country is very fragile. The same in France, the same in some Central and Eastern European countries. So if we want to stabilise Europe, with our values, freedom, democracy, rule of law, protection of minorities, etc. we should try to avoid electoral success of those called populist parties.
Host: Well, that's all for today's podcast for the GCSP. Thanks for listening. And thank you to Tuesday Reitano for joining us, along with Professor René Schwok. Join us again next week to hear all the latest insights on international peace and security. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Until then, bye for now.