Migrant Smuggling Data and Research

A Global Review of the Emerging Evidence Base

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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.



South-East Asia and Australia

Internal displacement, refugee and stateless populations and asylum and irregular labour migration flows have long posed challenges for South-East Asia as a region. Multiple drivers of irregular migration – such as conflict, interethnic and broader community violence, natural disasters, profound inequality and lack of opportunity – feature in many parts of the region. Entry and border management are particularly challenging because of archipelagic and isolated borders, and further complicated by traditions of informal (often seasonal) migration for work. Illicit migratory practices, such as the corrupt behaviour that facilitates migrant smuggling and human trafficking, are endemic and have proved difficult to manage. The political, economic and social costs of irregular migration are growing for most States of the region, and it is unsurprising that this issue is now firmly established on the political, policy and research agendas in both South-East Asia and Australia. Within this broader landscape, migrant smuggling has emerged as a persistent feature of irregular migration and a source of pressing concern to governments of the region.


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