Countering Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Human Beings in the Western Balkans: IOM brings together regional key institutional actors in Budva, Montenegro


Budva - On March 24, 2022, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) organized a regional meeting between key institutional actors of the Western Balkans engaged in Countering Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Human Beings (THB). 

The meeting, bringing together members of the Task Forces for Countering Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) and Anti-Trafficking Coordinators from the Western Balkans jurisdictions (prosecution offices, representatives of ministries of interior/security, border police, crime investigation units), served as a platform to share best practices and explore cross-regional challenges and opportunities.

Organized within the Western Balkans  project „Joint Actions Against Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Human Beings“ (WBJAST) supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the meeting aimed to contribute to the broad objective of improving coordination and cooperation between jurisdictions in the region.

Since 2015, some 1.5 million migrants have transited through the Western Balkans. While the situation remains fluid, increased and more complex mixed migration movements have placed additional pressure on WB partners to address the needs of migrants in transit, especially the most vulnerable. In 2020, Europol noted a growth of migrant smuggling activities in the region, with criminal networks employing increasingly exploitative measures to defeat controls. Early and proactive identification of risks and vulnerabilities among mixed migration flows remain a challenge and obstacle for authorities to address and suppress trafficking effectively. Applying a regional and multi-sectoral approach to identify and deploy innovative solutions – specifically digital and ICT tools – is a crucial to overcome those obstacles and fight evolving modus operandi. 

“These meetings are key for overcoming formalities sometimes cumbersome for effective response, allowing for direct communication and networking”, highlighted one of the participants.

Within the scope of the 36-months WBJAST project started in October 2021, IOM is contributing to better migration management of mixed migration flows in the Western Balkans by strengthening effective counter-smuggling and counter-human trafficking practices, in line with protection sensitive approaches to assisting victims of trafficking (VOTs). IOM recognizes the importance of regular cooperation and coordination and is committed to improve exchanges of best practices and lessons learned between the actors across the region. 
The regional initiative will also aim to strengthen prevention, protection, and prosecution efforts to counter Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Human Beings in all Western Balkans jurisdictions. A specific attention will also be given to enhancing protection and empowerment of vulnerable migrant categories following a rights-based and victim-sensitive approach. IOM will continue to build on the excellent relationships with relevant partners in the region to implement this initiative.

For more information, please contact the IOM Western Balkans at