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.




There is a long history of migrant smuggling in Turkey and its immediate neighbourhood, which started with the irregular flows of migrants from Afghanistan by the end of the 1970s following a series of events, namely the following: (a) the Soviet invasion, civil wars, Taliban regime; (b) in the early 1980s from the Islamic Republic of Iran after the regime change and persecution based on religion and political opinion; (c) end-1980s from Iraq due to Saddam’s attacks on Kurds followed by American occupation in 2003 and the civil war; and (d) more recently from the Syrian Arab Republic fleeing from civil war that erupted in 2011. Apart from these flows, Turkey has transformed into a transit migration hub for migrants hailing from Africa and South Asia thanks to the dynamics of globalization and increasing mobility.


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