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6th Silk Routes Working Group Meeting in Islamabad addresses irregular migration

25 June 2015

Irregular migration has been a priority topic for the participating countries of the Budapest Process since the adoption of the Istanbul Ministerial Declaration on the Silk Routes Partnership for Migration in April 2013. 

The 6th Silk Routes Working Group meeting, hosted by Pakistan from 8 - 9 June 2015 in Islamabad, dedicated two days to discuss best practices, exchange information and debate how to effectively prevent and counteract criminal networks accountable for irregular migration as well as on how to facilitate the return of irregular migrants.

When discussing irregular migration, it became once again clear that the differentiation between smuggling and trafficking matters concerning the legal and judicial consequences as well as when talking about risk groups that would need more protection. While mostly young single men agree to being smuggled across international borders, more often women and children become victims of criminal trafficking operations. All Silk Routes Partnership countries are source, transit and destination countries for irregular migration. Main destination countries for irregular migrants from the Silk Routes countries are the Gulf States, the EU and Australia. While Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq are traditional sources of irregular migration, Iran and Turkey serve as major transit countries for irregular migrants. Concerning Pakistan as a source and transit country, major smuggling and trafficking routes were disclosed and discussed during presentations. Some of the routes included the following:

Participants also exchanged their views on factors influencing irregular migration. Certainly, security risks and relative poverty continue to be the major push factors. After more than half a century of protracted regular and irregular migration, cross border kinship ties are significant as a pull factor, in particular in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It was agreed upon that these factors should not be neglected in a solution oriented policy approach. During the Working Group Meeting over 22 countries, stretching from Western Europe to South Asia, 6 International Organisations, the European Commission and Frontex agreed also that cooperation on addressing the root causes of irregular migratory should be a priority concern for improving protection for migrants from criminal exploitation.