Migrant women and girls who may not be able to meet legal requirements to use regular migration routes or seek to avoid lengthy administrative processes may use the services of smugglers to reach their intended destination country. What may start as a consensual agreement can abruptly turn into exploitation and abuse. Unscrupulous smugglers often charge exorbitant fees and offer ‘go now, pay later’ schemes that result in migrant women and girls incurring high debts. To pay these back, they may be subjected to forced prostitution and labour exploitation, including forced labour. Smugglers may also beat and rape migrant women and girls, abandon them or sell them to traffickers or criminal gangs.
Appropriate gender-responsive protection and assistance must be provided to smuggled migrant women and girls upon arrival and registration in a country of transit or destination, recognizing that they may have been survivors of psychological or physical abuse, intimidation and/or sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
- Elimination of discriminatory provisions in laws or policies that restrict or exclude opportunities for women and girls to migrate through safe and regular channels
- Development of gender-responsive and child-sensitive cooperation protocols along migration routes that specify concrete measures on how to identify and assist smuggled migrant women and girls
- Accessible services with trained women and men case workers at ports of entry and/or processing facilities to identify, respond to and treat signs of trauma and emotional distress in migrant women and girls who may have been smuggled
- Access to essential services including health, justice and social services for smuggled women and girls who were survivors of sexual or gender-based violence
- Reporting and referral services and access to justice for migrant women and girls, irrespective of their migration status, who have experienced human rights abuses by smugglers during their journey
- Protection and promotion of the human rights and dignity of women and girls and promotion of the application of the broader rights protection framework during efforts to curtail and combat transnational organized crime, including the criminal act of smuggling
- Non-criminalization of migrants who are or have been smuggled and specific gender-responsive procedures prioritizing survivors’ rights
- Non-criminalization of migrants who have attempted to migrate again after having been deported
- Collection, analysis and dissemination of sex- and age-disaggregated data and gender statistics on smuggling of migrants
- COVID-19: Implementation of gender-responsive measures to address the increased likelihood of migrant women and girls engaging the services of smugglers due to border closures and other containment measures enacted during the pandemic