Anesa Agovic

From 18 to 20 November 2022, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), the International Police Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Sarajevo Canton held a conference in Sarajevo to address the challenges of migrant smuggling and human trafficking in the Western Balkans and beyond.

In 2021, the GI-TOC held a resilience dialogue in Sarajevo to strengthen collaboration between civil society and the government to address the growing challenge of migrant smuggling in the country. An outcome of that dialogue was the creation of a conference that brought together over 100 stakeholders from a number of countries to discuss challenges, trends and good practices in countering migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

The event convened representatives of law enforcement and security agencies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia; international organizations; the EU delegation; and the US, French, Austrian, Dutch and Hungarian embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina; academia; civil society and the media.

Civil society representatives working with migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina also shared the experiences of Iraqi and Afghan migrants travelling along the Balkan route, one of the main migratory paths into Europe. Their perspectives highlighted the importance of building stronger bridges between civil society and policymakers, so that more human rights-based responses towards migrants can be adopted. Participants also raised the need to have a more balanced gender representation in law enforcement agencies as well as enhanced sensitivity when approaching human trafficking victims.

The GI-TOC took the opportunity to present the Global Organized Crime Index, showing how countries in the Western Balkans score with regard to these criminal markets, and discussed the findings from the report ‘Spot prices: Analyzing flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans’.

The event provided a platform for information sharing between stakeholders, including civil society, and allowed for bilateral engagement between the International Police Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other law enforcement agencies, planting the seeds for further collaboration