Regional Forum on Migration and Maritime Security: Strengthening cooperation to address regional challenges

The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) organised a Regional Forum on Migration and Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean. The forum was successfully attended by representatives of several countries, experts and key stakeholders from the region. The aim was to strengthen cooperation and harness collective intelligence to formulate solutions to the complex challenges associated with migration and maritime security, with a focus on areas such as violence at sea, human trafficking, irregular and illegal migratory flows and other human rights violations.

A robust "migration and maritime security" mechanism plays a pivotal role in addressing critical global challenges. With increasing migration flows and maritime activities, it is crucial to establish an effective framework that ensures the safety, protection, and well-being of migrants and safeguards maritime borders. Such a mechanism fosters cooperation among nations, facilitates efficient management of migration, prevents human trafficking and smuggling, combats transnational crime, and promotes maritime safety and security. By recognizing the significance of a solid migration and maritime security system, nations can collectively work towards creating a safer and more orderly world for both migrants and maritime stakeholders.

The regional forum was an opportunity for dialogue and the exchange of experiences on the governance of migration, as well as the promotion of a coordinated approach to effectively confront the increasing challenges in the Indian Ocean. "Our Member States have adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and have expressed their commitment to ensuring better governance of migration at all levels," said Mr. Raj Mohabeer, Officer in Charge at the Indian Ocean Commission's Economic, Connectivity, Maritime Security and Island Interests Department. For the record, the United Nations estimated that more than 281 million people worldwide1 were living outside their country of origin.

During the regional forum, participants examined the challenges linked to migration in the maritime domain, while stressing the fundamental need to ensure maritime safety in the region within the framework of the Maritime Safety Architecture of the MASE programme under the IOC. It is increasingly necessary to adopt a holistic approach, integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions, to ensure effective and sustainable management of migration and maritime safety in the Western Indian Ocean region. As Ashraf El Nour, IOM Regional Director - South Africa, pointed out, maritime and human security are inextricably linked: « Acknowledging this nexus between migration, human mobility and sustainable development, this clearly provides a basis for effective approaches and strengthened collaboration between States and different partners actively to contribute to good migration governance. »

Several recommendations were made at the Regional Forum on Migration and Maritime Security. In particular, participants collectively called for:

  • The establishment of an appropriate structure (at both regional and national levels) to develop a five-year Action Plan while considering the 7 recommendations made at the workshop in July 2022 and the proposals made at the July 2023 forum. The Action Plan will serve as a tool to mobilize resources and guide regional organizations and Member States in its implementation and control.

  • Effective operationalization of the national centres and better coordination with the two regional centres (RMIFC and RCOC) with the support of OIM and the IOC

  • Enhance the capacities of regional and national stakeholders to address human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, irregular migration and loss of lives at sea.

  • Integration of MASE Maritime security architecture into national IOM offices strategies for better coordination

Migration and maritime security in the Indian Ocean.

The presentations by the experts highlighted numerous challenges linked to migration in the maritime context in our region. These challenges, such as irregular and illegal migration, human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, loss of life at sea, etc., are linked for the most part to organized transnational crimes such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and trafficking of all kinds. This raises the question of the capacity and obligations of all the stakeholders involved: States, national and regional centres, international organizations, etc.

Several specific migration issues and challenges in the maritime domain in the Western Indian Ocean were discussed at the regional forum, including irregular migration, Trafficking in persons (TIP), Smuggling of migrants (SOM) and Loss of lives at sea (LLS) while considering the existing national and regional capacities and international legal provisions and frameworks. These issues and challenges were considered in line with the 7 recommendations made at the Regional Stocktaking Workshop in July 2022 in Ebene, Mauritius.

In this context, regional cooperation plays an essential role, allowing the effective management and dissemination of information, the development of technical capacities and operational resources, and the improvement of the legal framework at national and regional level.

Towards greater coherence in the governance of migration in IOC Member States and beyond

The joint actions of the IOC and the IOM contribute to the operationalization of the maritime security architecture, thereby strengthening regional and international coordination mechanisms for safe, orderly and regular migration. The results and recommendations of this forum will serve as a solid foundation to guide future actions aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and addressing the multidimensional challenges of maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean in coordinated manner.

This collaboration of IOM and IOC is part of the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) project, funded by the European Union.


For more information contact Simla Pertaub