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Migrant Smuggling Data and Research

A Global Review of the Emerging Evidence Base

image of Migrant Smuggling Data and Research
The report shows that important research has been undertaken on the transnational crime aspects of migrant smuggling, including on routes, smuggling organizations (such as criminal networking and facilitation), smuggler profiles and fees/payment. Likewise, there is an emerging academic literature on migrant smuggling, particularly the economic and social processes involved in smuggling, which has largely been based on small-scale qualitative research, mostly undertaken by early career researchers. Contributions from private research companies, as well as investigative journalists, have provided useful insights in some regions, helping to shed light on smuggling practices. There remains, however, sizeable gaps in migration policy research and data, particularly in relation to migration patterns and processes linked to migrant smuggling, including its impact on migrants (particularly vulnerability, abuse and exploitation), as well as its impact on irregular migration flows (such as increasing scale, diversity and changes in geography). Addressing these systemic and regional gaps in data and research would help deepen understanding of the smuggling phenomenon, and provide further insights into how responses can be formulated that better protect migrants while enhancing States’ abilities to manage orderly migration.

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Report overview

Globally, migrant smuggling receives a considerable amount of media, policy and public attention, but how much do we really know about it based on sound evidence? To what extent are data and research on migrant smuggling collected, reported and undertaken throughout the world? In the project from which this report stems, we set out to answer these questions by working with researchers and analysts to review the current data and research on migrant smuggling globally. We did so for several reasons. First, migrant smuggling matters increasingly to migrants, enormously to States and is clearly critical to a great number of non-State actors, including unfortunately the smugglers and agents who operate in this illicit sector. It also matters to a range of others including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support migrants, international organizations working on migration, transnational crime, development and human rights, as well as the media. Enhancing our understanding of migrant smuggling improves our ability to combat inequity, exploitation and abuse by helping craft effective responses aimed at supporting safe and orderly migration policies and practices. The impacts of migrant smuggling can be many and varied but none more tragic than the deaths of people during migration, which tend to be heavily intertwined with unsafe, exploitative and unregulated migration practices often involving smuggling. The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) latest global report on migrant fatalities, for example, reported over 60,000 dead or missing migrants worldwide since 1995 (Brian and Laczko, 2016).

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