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22 February 2024 | Event
Bali Process Disruption Working Group’s Joint Period of Action advances cross-border collaboration

The Bali Process Working Group on Disruption of Criminal Networks ‘Progression Session’ reconvened members for a third meeting over 23 – 25 January 2024, to progress the development of cross-border Investigation Plans as part of the 2023/24 Joint Period of Action. Organised by Immigration New Zealand and New Zealand Police, and chaired by New Zealand and Viet Nam, the meeting marked the midway point of the Joint Period of Action. Members of the Working Group on Disruption of Criminal Networks, including New Zealand, Viet Nam, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, have been working to progress key elements of their joint investigations into people smuggling and the exploitation and trafficking of persons, and provided updates on their activities.

The Regional Support Office of the Bali Process (RSO), in collaboration with the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), was pleased to support coordination and provide input across the three days of activities. 

Innovate, Investigate, Integrate

In addition to advancing progress on the investigations, the three-day gathering convened law enforcement agencies, immigration authorities, border security officials, and subject matter experts from various international organisations to share best practices and insights.  

Themed under the heading ‘Innovate, Investigate, Integrate’, the agenda for the three days focused on innovative investigative strategies and integrated approaches needed to create a safer regional environment. Sessions over the three days included expert panels on combatting crime on social media, cross-sector collaboration in the digital age and partnerships between law enforcement and NGOs.

The opening ceremony featured remarks by Kylie Seumanu, Head of Irregular Migration and Trafficking in Persons, Immigration New Zealand, highlighting the importance of safeguarding the rights and dignity of vulnerable individuals during efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks. This was followed by a presentation from Elisabeth Potuijt, Law Enforcement Outreach at TikTok, who delved into the importance of collaboration between social media companies and law enforcement agencies in disrupting criminal networks and ensuring a safe digital environment. 

Day two of the event presented insights and experiences from the non-governmental sector operating in Thailand, with presentations by Matthew Valentine, Patchanittha Srikhum, and Sudatip Duanngtip from the Scientia Program. This was complemented by a group activity aimed at exchanging experiences and addressing challenges and opportunities in government and NGO collaboration. Additionally, Craig Johnston, Immigration New Zealand’s Irregular Migration Liaison Officer, delivered a presentation on enhancing border security measures.

Discussions noted the importance of building effective partnerships across policymakers, law enforcement and the private sector—including social media companies—and reflected upon challenges such as overcoming organisational, jurisdictional, and operational differences. Attendees also reflected on the need for ongoing training and resources to keep up with the evolving digital landscape. 

Update on Joint Investigations

On the final day, New Zealand and Viet Nam, and Sri Lanka and Thailand, updated on progress of the ongoing joint investigations underway as part of the JPoA.  

New Zealand and Viet Nam are working to counter the activity of organised crime groups that traffic Vietnamese nationals into New Zealand. Sri Lanka and Thailand are working to identify and prevent Sri Lankan citizens travelling into Thailand as a transit point before then entering illegally into neighbouring countries.

Ben Quinn, New Zealand’s Irregular Migration Officer to the Mekong Region, said: “The conference’s main message, ‘Innovate, Investigate, Integrate,’ underscored our collective determination to combat criminal networks involved in people smuggling and trafficking. With New Zealand co-chairing, partnerships across borders were emphasized, highlighting the importance of collaboration. Attendees highlighted the role of technology in investigations, showcasing its potential to enhance anti-trafficking efforts. Overall, the conference left us united and ready to tackle these challenges head-on.”