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How to further build evidence base on migrant smuggling? 7 suggestions by IOM


The smuggling of migrants across international borders on routes crossing land, sea and air continues to pose a challenge to migration governance and impedes safe and orderly migration. Migrant smugglers are increasingly becoming a central part of the irregular migration journey, resulting in enormous profits for criminal smuggling networks while reducing the ability of States to manage their borders.

Migrant Smuggling Data and Research undertaken in 2018 is the result of a collaboration between IOM and researchers from a range of backgrounds and academic disciplines, and was supported by the Government of Turkey. This project has brought together researchers and analysts working on migrant smuggling throughout the world in order to review the current state of data and research on the topic.

To develop more effective and sustainable responses to migrant smuggling, it is crucial that migrant-centric research continues and is expanded. The chapters in this report include a number of suggestions on how to further build the evidence base on migrant smuggling. The most interesting ones are presented below.

  • Greater attention to linking knowledge about the social and economic processes of migrant smuggling with knowledge of migrant smuggling policy and practice in order to better understanding how one impacts the other. Ideally, this would involve forging partnerships between policymakers and researchers.
  • Encouraging greater access to data to facilitate deeper analysis of existing statistical data and other information that may be held by States, either through trusted partnership arrangements or through open access.
  • Much of the research undertaken and highlighted in the report was conducted by people from outside the actual region, and there is recognition that much more needs to be done to strengthen research capacity and institutions within regions. The establishment of regional monitoring and analysis units or hubs focusing on smuggling could play a useful part in regional capacity-building approach.
  • A greater focus on smuggling from transit and origin country perspectives. Assisting transit countries better manage the entry and stay of people, including through the development of effective migration policies.
  • Broader and more consistent use of transnational data reporting tools such as UNODC’s Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct and IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM). By gathering data through large-scale rapid surveys of migrants on the move, the DTM has been able to gather a considerable amount of information about migrant smuggling in real time, and enhancements of DTM have begun to offer insights into markers of trafficking, and have potential for providing further insights on smuggling.
  • This report has identified a huge number of studies on migrant smuggling. This evidence is currently scattered across several countries and regions. Bringing this information together into a global database of research and data on migrant smuggling, which is regularly updated, could help policymakers to draw on the emerging evidence in a more timely fashion in the future.
  • Finally, it is worth highlighting a very new and potentially powerful and useful partnership – the IOM-UNODC Joint Platform on Countering Migrant Smuggling – which is at the first stages of informal consultations following discussions in Vienna in late March 2018.

See also Part II "Southern Europe: Overview of existing migrant smuggling data and research"

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