The illegal transport of migrants by ship is seen as a security threat by the Canadian government. The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced that the legislation Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act had received Royal Assent on June 29, 2012. The backgrounder that accompanied his announcement cited the large-scale arrival of illegal migrants smuggled by ship as undermining Canada’s security. The two most recent incidents on Canada’s West Coast were mentioned as proof that human smuggling networks were a  significant and growing concern for Canada.

The Illegal Transport of Migrants by Ship on Canada’s Pacific Coast

In this November 2012 article in BC Shipping News, Darryl Anderson of Wave Point Consulting reviews past incidents of the illegal transport of migrants by ship, international trends and recent federal government actions to help readers gauge the adequacy of Canada’s recent efforts to address the problem.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2011 released the Smuggling of Migrants by Sea issue paper. It acknowledges the complexities and challenges associated with addressing the crime of the illegal transport of migrants by ship.  Some of these challenges are summarized below:

  • It is a competitive criminal business with high profits for smugglers, but all the risks are borne by migrants.
    • It cannot be separated from smuggling by land or air because of complex interconnections. There is mounting evidence that an effective response to smuggling by sea requires that the issues be addressed a considerable distance from the high-tide mark at locations (where land and air movements occur) in countries of origin and transit, and where smugglers organize sea smuggling.
    • Detecting smuggling vessels at sea is a key challenge for coastal states.
    • Coastal nations face a difficult time balancing border protection and respecting legal rights of migrants.
    • International cooperation is essential to tackling the problem of smuggling migrants by sea. Efforts need to focus on the criminalization (and prosecution) of smugglers and the protection of migrants’ rights.