The ASEAN Secretariat has announced a new programme of work to strengthen close coordination between the Australia-Asia Programme to Combat Trafficking in Persons (AAPTIP) and ASEAN member countries and the Secretariat.

This plan of work was endorsed by the 15th Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), which was convened last month in Siem Reap, Cambodia, according to the Secretariat.

Australia is the only dialogue partner of ASEAN that has been working closely with ASEAN member countries since 2003 for the strengthening of criminal justice systems in responding to human trafficking crimes through a victim-centered approach.

The work plan represents the Australian government's strong commitment to ASEAN's fight against all forms of trafficking in persons, and reflects AAPTIP's responsiveness to the new emerging mandate of the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which is expected to be adopted by ASEAN leaders by the end of this year.

AAPTIP is committed to increasing its work with the SOMTC, the SOMTC's Working Group on TIP, and the associated Heads of Specialist Anti-TIP Units over the coming years, and to support these sectoral bodies to delve deeper into the new areas of the criminal justice system's support for victims of trafficking and the trafficking of migrants for labour exploitation, including in the fishing industry.

AAPTIP is a five-year regional programme started in August 2013.

AAPTIP has built both national level and regional-level programmes and currently has offices and activities in seven ASEAN countries as well as a programme to work regionally with ASEAN bodies addressing trafficking in persons. All AAPTIP programmes and activities therein are supported and endorsed by 10 ASEAN member countries.-VNA