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.




Large-scale migration from Afghanistan has been a phenomenon since the late 1970s when the country first experienced instability, conflict and a shattered economy. Since then, the number of Afghans leaving has fluctuated in function of the degree of instability and economic hardship in the country, with Afghans continuously – and increasingly – on the move. Due to the large presence of registered refugees and undocumented Afghans in the neighbouring countries of the Islamic Republic of Iran (hereinafter referred to as Iran) and Pakistan, an overview of smuggling from Afghanistan must also cover Iran and Pakistan, not only as transit and destination countries but also as countries of origin.


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