Who are the smugglers bringing people to Europe?

Over the past year, as the EU migration crisis continued to play out, I’ve had the great privilege to curate a series of research which took a close look at human smugglers themselves: who they are; how they came to be doing what they do; what they think about their work, and what it would take for them to stop facilitating the relentless movement of people.

Our team of outstanding researchers sat down with smugglers and migrants in Turkey, Libya, Niger, along the North African coast including in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, as well as in the Horn of Africa.  This was a joint project of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime and the Institute for Security Studies, funded by the Hanns Seidl Foundation.

The research is published in four research and policy briefs:

Breathing Space: The impact of the EU-Turkey deal on irregular migration
Pub_Breathing-SpaceThe €6billion agreement reached between the European Union (EU) and Turkey on migration achieved a dramatic drop in the number of crossings and stopped a fast-growing criminal industry in its tracks. But smugglers interviewed for this paper are watching closely for signs of a change of tack, and not without reason. The Erdogan administration has been progressively at odds with the EU as it finds itself hemmed in by growing internal dissent, multiple terror threats and a failing economy. The breathing space provided by the arrangement is running out and the EU does not seem to have a credible alternative in the event of a collapse.
Read it here: Global Initiative & ISS – Breathing Space (Nov 2016).


At the edge: Trends and routes of North African clandestine migrants
Pub_At-the-edgeIn 2015, over 16,000 Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans were caught while attempting to migrate to Europe covertly. Though North Africans are a relatively small portion of the masses of clandestine migrants, they are a critical group to understand. They are the innovators and early adaptors of new methods and routes for migrant smuggling, such as their pioneering in the 1990s and 2000s of the routes across the Mediterranean that now fuel Europe’s migration crisis. Understanding how and why North Africans migrate, the routes they use, and how these are changing, offers insights into how clandestine migration methods and routes in general may shift in the coming years. In shaping better responses to actual dynamics, it is important for countries to proactively address the chronic conditions that drive forced migration before they generate social instability.
Read it here: Global Initiative & ISS – At the edge (Nov 2016).


The Niger-Libya corridor: Smugglers’ perspectives
Pub_The-Niger-Libya-corridorInstability and high levels of violence in Libya preclude credible interventions to stem irregular migration flows from off the coast of Libya to Europe. As a result, policy-makers have increasingly been looking to the transit country of Niger in order to reduce the number of migrants crossing into southern Libya for onward travel to Europe via the Mediterranean. In Niger, international attention, premised on the assumption that European interests are congruent with those of local actors, has concentrated on the city of Agadez, a smuggling hub in the Sahara Desert. Yet, vested interests related to migrant smuggling and the free flow of people in Niger are misaligned with those of Europe, and the city of Agadez is in fact part of a broader system of ethnically derived zones of protection and control embedded in the political economy of the Sahel. Interventions designed to reduce migration flows and enhance protection for the migrants must be predicated on a far more nuanced understanding of local dynamics and the non-state actors facilitating the trade, so as to avoid destabilising one of the few pockets of stability in an already volatile region. This paper draws from interviews with local communities and smugglers themselves along the Niger-Libya corridor.
Read it here: Global Initiative & ISS – The Niger-Libya corridor (Nov 2016).


The Khartoum Process: A sustainable response to human smuggling and trafficking?
Pub_Khartoum-ProcessIn the 2012-16 ‘migration crisis’, citizens from the Horn of Africa have been arriving irregularly in Europe in unprecedented numbers, whilst featuring disproportionately amongst the fatalities. This has prompted the launch of the Khartoum Process, a partnership between the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) and East and North African states, to respond to human smuggling and trafficking. This brief critically and unfavourably evaluates this framework. The Khartoum Process is not only unlikely to achieve the desired outcomes, but, more importantly, it is likely to pose a risk to the better governance and development of the Horn of Africa.
Read it here: Global Initiative & ISS – The Khartoum process (Nov 2016).

One further publication is due in the New Year, looking specifically at the Libyan coast.

Many thanks to all that contributed to the series:

Thanks to Migrant Report for the picture, which is of detention centre for migrants in Libya.

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