U.S. Army Africa (USARAF,) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe began a series of exercises focused on reducing human trafficking along migrant routes at the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units here, June 17.

“The prolonged instability in the Middle East, Sahel and the Horn of Africa has given rise to migration flows on an unprecedented scale,” said OSCE Secretary General Ambassador Lamberto Zannier during his opening remarks. “This phenomenon has assumed alarming proportions and continues to cause appalling human tragedies.”

The surge in migrants also brings with it financial opportunities for those involved in trafficking.

“Migration and human trafficking are becoming increasingly intertwined,” said Zannier. “Many of those escaping misery and persecution fall into the hands of trafficking syndicated that operate along migration routes and take advantage of their situation.”

The 24-month OSCE program will involve some 200 European and African participants, and centers around three complex exercises hosted by CoESPU. The exercises focus on improving the identification and assistance of victims and strengthening the criminal justice response to traffickers.

CoESPU is an international organization that provides technical and financial assistance to increase global capacity for peacekeeping operations and has trained more than 5,000 civilian police and leaders from 96 countries. African nations account for about 50 percent of the training audience, according to Colonel Darius Gallegos, a U.S. Army Reserve Military Police officer, and the deputy director of CoESPU.

The event was attended by senior representatives from the OSCE such as Zannier, the Italian Parliament’s President of the Chamber of Deputies Laura Boldrini, Italian Carabinieri commander Gen. Tullio Del Sette, U.S. Army Africa Commanding General Major General Joseph Harrington, as well as police force representatives from across Europe and Africa.

“Trafficking humans is a common concern,” said General Mamadou Gueye Faye, the commander of Senegal’s gendarmerie forces. “Africa is a major departing point, so when we heard OSCE was providing this training, I knew Senegal had to be a part of it.”

Looking beyond the immediate concern of human suffering, Faye also emphasized the security implications of combatting human trafficking along migrant routes as well.

“Another important aspect of human trafficking is that it can also be a means to finance terrorism,” said Faye.

Observers from the U.S. Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute also attended the event to increase cooperation and share ideas.

“We saw a lot of partnership here today,” said U.S. Army Colonel Carter Oates, chief security advisor for PKSOI. “From a procedure and policy standpoint, there’s a lot we share in terms of programs of instructions. That knowledge helps our own military police on the ground in an environment where they conduct peacekeeping until host nation forces can build their own capacity to take over.”

The OSCE region is witnessing massive movements of people caused by on-going conflicts, instability and lack of economic opportunity in neighboring regions. These “mixed-migration flows” are comprised of refugees and economic migrants who are highly vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. More than one million people came to Europe in 2015, and of this total, around 10,000 migrant children have gone missing according to Europol data, with many believed to have been trafficked.

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