On 21 September 2021, Switzerland and Ethiopia co-hosted a Virtual Roundtable titled Return, Reintegration and Integration: Finding Durable Solutions.

The thematic focus of this virtual roundtable is at the core of several guiding documents in the framework of the Khartoum Process. The Declaration of the Ministerial Conference of the Khartoum Process from 28 November 2014 lists addressing irregular migration, including through cooperation on return, in particular voluntary return, and readmission as one of the thematic priorities of the Khartoum Process. Similarly, the Joint Valletta Action Plan outlines strengthening cooperation in order to facilitate the return and sustainable reintegration of irregular migrants as a priority under Domain 5: Return, Readmission and Reintegration.

While members of the Khartoum Process have undertaken significant progress and efforts towards strengthening dialogue and cooperation under this thematic priority, the interrelated topics of return, reintegration, and integration were last explored in the framework of the Process in 2016, on the occasion of the Thematic Meeting on Return, Readmission and Reintegration, co-chaired by Ethiopia and Italy.

As a first step to resuming deliberations on this important topic, this virtual roundtable was organised, as a means of setting the grounds for in-depth deliberations, during an upcoming in-person Thematic Meeting, establishing a conceptual framework of durable solutions in all three fields for the discussion and identifying priority areas for further exploration.

On 29 September 2021, Khartoum Process Steering Committee members convened in person for the first time since March 2020, when they met on the occasion of the Steering Committee Meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Due to the global health crisis, which affected both migration dynamics and the modus operandi of the Khartoum Process, this Steering Committee Meeting provided a most welcome opportunity for Steering Committee representatives to reconvene and jointly deliberate on how the Process can move forward in a way that addresses the needs of the members and accounts for the new realities.

 During this half-day Steering Committee Meeting, held in Brussels, Belgium, the following agenda items were presented and discussed, with a series of key action points agreed upon: updates on the 2021 workplan and proposals for 2022, governance related issues, such as the Chairmanship of the Process, as well as the broader issue of the resumption of the Khartoum Process activities and the need to “reset” the Process in a way that reflects the current realities and several ongoing limitations linked to travel possibilities. Joint Valletta Action Plan (JVAP) update and next steps in this process were also discussed.

Following the three webinars in the 4Ps Revisited Webinar Series, on Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution, the Khartoum Process Secretariat, in cooperation with the Khartoum Process Chair – The Netherlands – organised on 30 June 2021 the last webinar in the series. Naturally, this last webinar focused on Partnership.

The issue of partnership being a cross-cutting one, the first three webinars naturally touched on the importance of partnerships in all areas of work linked to the fight against human trafficking. On these occasions, it has been illustrated how the prevention of this crime, the protection of the victims, and the prosecution of the criminals cannot be successfully achieved without multi-agency, multi-level, cross-border cooperation and partnership.

Against this backdrop, the aim of the fourth and last webinar was to go deeper into the topic of fostering partnerships to combat human trafficking by looking at a number of good practices previously not explored in the framework of the webinar series. Several existing cross-sectoral initiatives in the financial and technology sector, as well as examples of institutional partnerships were explored, in the hope that these emerging types of partnerships will provide inspiration for our partners in the Khartoum Process region, for new and innovative future endeavours.

A first example of partnership was introduced by Mr. Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR. The Rapid Alert System (RAS), a collaborative approach currently being piloted by IOM, UNODC, and UNHCR, is aimed at acting and responding to information about victims of trafficking and others in vulnerable situations by referring information directly or through a third party.

On 26 May 2021, the third webinar the 4-Module Series titled Trafficking in Human Beings:  The 4Ps Revisited was organised by the Khartoum Process Secretariat in coordination with the Khartoum Process Chair, The Netherlands.

This third webinar addressed the topic of Prosecution, with a focus on international cooperation.

Over 100 delegates joined experts from the region and from international organisations in exploring good practices and current challenges linked to the issue of prosecuting human traffickers.

Mr. Johan Kruger, Head of Transnational Organised Crime, Illicit Trafficking & Terrorism Programmes for Eastern Africa, UNODC, set the scene for the discussion by providing a brief overview on the recent developments in the region with regards to ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers, as well as current challenges.

His keynote presentation was followed by a first session on joint regional and international investigations and cooperation, with Mr Guy Fourmage, ROCK Technical Advisor, presenting the experience of the Regional Operational Centre in Support of the Khartoum Process and the AU-Horn of Africa Initiative (ROCK). The presentation focused on the rationale behind the ROCK, its modus operandi and some of its achievements to date.  Ms Annalisa Pauciullo, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, Regional Office for Western and Eastern Africa, UNODC, gave an overview of the Liaison Magistrate Initiative, designed to foster judicial cooperation through the deployment of prosecutors among African and European states.

The second webinar in the 4-Module Webinar Series titled Trafficking in Human Beings: The 4Ps Revisited was carried out in the framework of the Khartoum Process on 28 April 2021.

The objective of this webinar was to present regional and national good practices linked to the protection of victims of trafficking by exploring structural and policy responses, as well as the direct support and assistance provided to victims. The virtual event gathered over 140 participants from a broad geographical range, welcoming delegates from Khartoum Process member states and institutions, international organisations, NGOs, and academia, laying the grounds for a rich exchange.

In her keynote speech, Ms. Conny Rijken, Professor of Human Trafficking and Globalisation at Tilburg University, set the stage with respect to the issue of human trafficking and victim protection, looking at the importance of understanding victims of trafficking, the (difficult) identification of victims, and lack of self-identification, as well as proper assistance and obstacles thereof. She also highlighted some of her research findings concerning the obstacles in criminal proceedings, among which the duration of proceedings, the detailed questioning or the victims not being believed/taken seriously.

The first session focused on structural and policy measures as prerequisites for the successful provision of support and assistance to victims of trafficking, starting from identification to referral to shelter provision and rehabilitation. Mechanisms such as National Action Plans, National Referral Mechanisms and Standard Operating Procedures are the structural backbone of practical responses. In the Khartoum Process region, there are numerous good practice examples, both in Europe and in Africa. In this session, Mr. Vincent Cochetel, Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Situation, UNHCR and General Counselor Siham Osman Mohamed – Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice and Head of the NCCT, Sudan were invited to speak on the importance of National Action Plans and the recent update of Sudan’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and the provisions on victim protection.

 On 31 March 2021, more than 100 attendees and panellists met online during a 2-hour long webinar on the Prevention of trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation.

The webinar was the first in a 4-Module Webinar Series titled Trafficking in Human Beings:  The 4Ps Revisited, each tackling one of the 4Ps of THB – Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, and Partnership.

The objective of this first webinar was to present regional and national initiatives linked to the prevention of exploitation for the purpose of forced labour, through improved management of labour migration, as well as to discuss the means of reducing fraudulent or abusive recruitment practices and promoting better-informed, rights-based migration.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) expert, Ms Aida Awel, set the stage for the discussion by providing an overview on labour exploitation in the Khartoum Process region, looking at trends, challenges, and responses.

The panel on regional cooperation to prevent labour exploitation included presentations on Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) external cooperation to prevent trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation through bilateral and regional agreements and the work of the European Labour Authority (ELA).

Moving on to the topic of pre-departure trainings and awareness raising on the road, presentations included Kenya’s National Employment Authority (NEA) pre-departure trainings for Kenyan migrant workers and the Better Migration Management (BMM) initiative in cooperation with Stop the Traffik, using public transport to raise awareness on the dangers of human trafficking.

In a third and final panel on ethical recruitment, Uganda’s External Employment Management Information System (EEMIS) and Seefar’s project, TERA, for safe and sustainable migration outcomes through ethical recruitment, were presented.

Rich in content and expertise, the webinar provided an opportunity for attendees to gain new insights and inspiration from the good practices presented, in the spirt of partnership and collaboration, despite the temporary lack of opportunities for in-person interactions.

A Steering Committee (SC) Meeting of the Khartoum Process took place virtually, on 2 December 2020, hosted and chaired by the 2020 Chair of the Khartoum Process, The Netherlands. SC members represented (in alphabetical order): African Union Commission, Egypt, Ethiopia, European Union (DG DEVCO, EEAS, DG HOME), France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Sudan, and Sweden.

The aim of the meeting was for SC members to exchange on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the work of the Khartoum Process and jointly explore constructive ways of fulfilling the mandate of the Process in the coming months. Despite the unusual current circumstances, the work of the Khartoum Process remains valuable and supports partners in tackling the mobility-associated challenges of the new context and beyond.

The Chair opened the meeting by referring to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the work of the Khartoum Process, namely the travel restrictions which made it impossible for in-person meetings, as platforms for dialogue, experience sharing, and networking in the framework of the Khartoum Process, to take place.

Against this backdrop, new ways of communicating and exchanging have been explored between March 2020 and the date of the Steering Committee, aimed at keeping channels of communication open and helping partners respond to emerging issues.

Agenda items included proposals for the 2021 workplan, the Joint Valletta Action Plan update and the JVAP database, an update on the 2020 activities to date and proposals of new formats of activities.

The current global COVID-19 pandemic, the health security measures, and the ensuing travel restrictions have widespread consequences for people across the world, including in the Khartoum Process partner countries.

While Khartoum Process partners are exploring new (long-distance) modalities of expertise sharing, cooperation, and dialogue in the absence of opportunities to meet on-location, we take this opportunity to look back at the in-person events organised to date in the framework of the Process.

In brief, between November 2015 and March 2020, 2 Informal Working Groups (WG), 9 Steering Committee (SC) Meetings, 7 Senior Officials’ Meetings (SOM),  12 Thematic Meetings (TM) and 1 Regional Training have gathered almost 1,800 delegates and resulted in over 130 recommendations.

The graphic below provides a snapshot of these meetings, as well as the various SC meetings and SOMs, as strategic and decision-making bodies of the Process.

Please click on the picture for a full size view.