The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime

Wednesday, 23 Aug 2023

RSO presents on issue of trafficking into online scam centres to business leaders and Bali Process Member States at the Bali Process Government and Business Forum

The RSO presented on efforts to support regional understanding and collaboration on the issue of trafficking into online scam centres at the Bali Process Government and Business Forum, and highlighted the important role that the private sector can play in responding to this issue.

Sukmo Yuwono, RSO Co-Manager (Indonesia) and Ryan Winch, Programme Manager for Transnational Crime and Technology, shared insights from the RSO’s work on this issue, and the RSO’s policy brief launched earlier this year—Trapped in Deceit. They detailed the rapid growth of online scam centres and the billions of dollars flowing through them into the pockets of organised crime, and set out suggestions for where the private sector can provide support to counter this activity.

Online scams centres have spread rapidly across Southeast Asia, with activity and business models increasingly being replicated further afield. Often such centres use victims of human trafficking as a primary source of labour to run complex scams at industrial scale operations—some scam centres have more than 10,000 individuals inside running scams—defrauding individuals around the world of billions of dollars.

Many routes to private sector engagement were proposed: from strategies to prevent money laundering; to the development of apps to assist law enforcement and victims of trafficking; and private sector support for awareness raising campaigns as well as how communication between sectors can be improved. Attendees discussed the important role social media companies can play, ensuring posts that facilitate human trafficking aren't able to remain on their platforms, and that evidence about trafficking cases can quickly and consistently be shared with law enforcement and prosecutors.

The Bali Process Government and Business Forum provides a strategic platform for collaboration between the private sector and Bali Process Member States to address forced labour and human trafficking challenges, bringing together influential business leaders and ministers from across the Bali Process membership.

The RSO looks forward to continuing to work to bridge the gap between public and private sectors, leveraging our combined knowledge and resources to effectively counter cybercrime, human trafficking and transnational organised crime.

Ryan Winch, Programme Manager for Transnational Crime and Technology, RSO said: "Awareness raising is a key component of the response, and this presentation of the RSO’s policy brief, Trapped in Deceit, provided an important opportunity to inform business leaders of how trafficking in persons is fueling the growth of online scam centres. The engagement in response to the session was very encouraging, both in terms of increasing private sector engagement and responses to online scam centres, but also in discussions around responding to human trafficking and modern slavery more broadly."

Lynn Bell, Senior Official Co-Chair for the Bali Process (Australia) reflected on social media: “Human traffickers use technology to profile, recruit, control and exploit their victims. Partnerships across government, business and civil society to detect and end these practices are vital. Human trafficking is a global problem and partnership is key.”