14 countries come together at RSO, KEMLU, IOM Roundtable to propose strategies for preventing trafficking in persons into online scam centres
More than 65 delegates from 14 countries, the private sector, and regional media came together to propose strategies for preventing trafficking into online scam centres by transnational organised crime groups.
The RSO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia (KEMLU), and International Organization for Migration (IOM) co-organised Roundtable was the first prevention-focused regional discussion on trafficking in persons (TIP) into online scam centres. The event provided a platform for participants to propose strategies for responding to trafficking into online scam centres, to discuss opportunities for collaboration between response actors, and to generate new ideas for how to effectively respond.
“Trafficking into online scam centres has reached enormous scales at an unprecedented speed,” said RSO Co-manager David Scott. “The global scale of the challenge, alongside the victim profiles of tech-savvy, educated, young people being reported, means that promoting prevention measures could have a significant impact for these individuals at a crucial juncture in their lives, and that a coordinated response is needed.”
Throughout the Roundtable, participants identified potential responses to the online scams issue corresponding to the event’s three primary themes: 1) Collaboration for the protection of victims; 2) Building awareness of new victim profiles, modus operandi, and trafficking risks on at-risk populations; and 3) Engagement to strengthen law enforcement cooperation.
Coordinated responses across sectors
Having governments, the private sector and civil society work together on large scale advocacy efforts to raise awareness of trafficking risks was a priority that ran through the day’s sessions. Beyond this, strengthening screening and identification processes for trafficking victims from online scam centres was also noted throughout as a priority, with differentiating perpetrators from trafficking victims noted as a particular challenge.
Ensuring adherence to the non-punishment principle was another concern highlighted by several participants, with the issue of visa overstay fees being requested from victims rescued from scam centres noted as something that should be stopped moving forward. Other suggested areas of focus included enhancing the protection of victims through strengthened return and reintegration processes and increasing law enforcement officers’ capacity to identify and trace illicit financial flows tied to transnational organised crime groups.
Good practices and collaboration opportunities were put forward during presentations from Australia, China, Kenya, and the United States, who discussed their ongoing efforts and steps being taken to address trafficking resulting from the abuse of technology. Presentations called for increased cooperation when responding to the abuse of technology, highlighting how the abuse of technology and online scam centres have grown into a significant challenge whose impacts are being felt globally.
Private sector representatives at the Roundtable focussed on content moderation good practices and strategies for preventing trafficking in persons on social media and job search platforms. Representatives from the online employment marketplace SEEK and social media company Meta gave insights into their content moderation practices, as well as how governments and international organisations can better coordinate with online platforms to identify and flag potentially harmful posts for removal. Discussions also noted the need for more open communication between law enforcement and online platforms, facilitating more rapid removal of harmful posts, as well as how to effectively facilitate the sharing of electronic evidence tied to cases of trafficking in persons.
How the media can be an effective partner in awareness raising was also discussed. Speakers from the Straits Times and Kompas outlined their ongoing efforts to raise awareness about online scams and potential risks for those using social media. The presentations highlighted how the timely sharing of information by Governments and law enforcement can allow media outlets to inform the public of online risks more quickly, and the presentations encouraged greater information sharing and dialogue to ensure the public can be provided with accurate and current information on potential risks tied to scams, online scam centres and trafficking in persons.
"Effective solutions require collaborative efforts"
“Everyone has a part to play in addressing online scam centres and effective solutions are going to require collaborative efforts,” said Ryan Winch, RSO Transnational Crime and Technology Programme Manager. “Meetings like today's are crucial as the online scam centre issue extends cross-regionally and will require multi-stakeholder solutions that bring together civil society, tech companies, law enforcement and policymakers. Today’s event was a great start and the RSO looks forward to continuing to support a coordinated response through roundtables and dialogues such as this.”
The Roundtable was organised in line with the Co-Chair’s Statement and 2023 Adelaide Strategy for Cooperation agreed to at the 8th Bali Process Ministerial Conference, in addition to Indonesia’s priority deliverable under the current chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and ASEAN’s stated objective to address challenges stemming from the abuse of technology as expressed in the May 2023 ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Combating Trafficking in Persons Caused by the Abuse of Technology.
The event’s outcome document, including the full range of responses proposed at the event can be downloaded here.
For more information on the online scams issue, see the RSO’s recent policy brief “Trapped in Deceit: Responding to the Trafficking in Persons Fuelling the Expansion of Southeast Asia’s Online Scam Centres”
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