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Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants 2018 - Overview


This is the first Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Every year, thousands of migrants and refugees, desperately seeking to escape violence, conflict and dire economic straits, die on perilous journeys by land, sea or air, often at the hands of criminal smugglers. Concerted, comprehensive action to counter this crime and protect people is needed.

This research represents a start towards developing a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the crime of migrant smuggling and its terrible toll. It can help to inform effective criminal justice responses, and contribute to continuing efforts towards the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Based on an extensive review of existing data and literature, the study presents a detailed account of the nature and scale of migrant smuggling. It focuses on the modus operandi of smugglers; the risks the journeys pose for migrants and refugees; and the profile of smugglers and the vulnerable groups on which they prey.

The global study shines a light on patterns, while making clear that there is never a one-size-fits-all explanation. What stands out is the bitter realization that smugglers are developing ever-more sophisticated organizational capacities, and using more dangerous routes to circumvent border controls, while misinforming migrants about the conditions.

Research also highlights potential avenues for strengthening measures against migrant smuggling. This includes raising awareness of the dangers posed by smugglers in destination countries. It may also include promoting alternative livelihoods for the lowest-level smugglers, who may be engaging in criminal activities out of the same desperation driving smuggled migrants to enlist their services. At the same time, improved international cooperation and law enforcement capacities are needed to go after the largescale criminal organizations that are pulling the strings. A global data collection system can strengthen the evidence base, and help the international community to come to grips with migrant smuggling.

There is a solid basis for such cooperative responses. More than three-quarters of all Member States are party to the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Going forward, better use of this framework is needed to find solutions to these shared challenges.

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  The Project is funded
by the European
The Project is implemented
by the International
Organization for Migration