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Migrant Smuggling Data and Research

A Global Review of the Emerging Evidence Base – Volume 2

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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.

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Middle east

The main objective of this chapter is to provide a brief overview of what is currently known about the data and research on the scope, nature and dynamics of migrant smuggling in the Middle East. Geographically located in south-western Asia, the region of the Middle East is known as the “crossroads of the world” because it is the region in which the three “old” continents – namely Asia, Africa and Europe – come together. In addition to its geography, the recent political history of the Middle East and of its neighbourhood exposes it to extensive irregular politically or economically driven border crossings, and consequently makes it vulnerable to migrant smuggling activities. In the context of these geographical and historical realities, millions of people are being displaced from their lands due to conflict, persecution and economic depression, and find themselves, mostly in irregular movement through smuggling networks, to move into and out of this region. As the region becomes subject to mixed flows of immigration, emigration and transit (Baldwin-Edwards, 2005; Fargues, 2009 and 2010), irregular migration and migrant smuggling become more complicated. In addition, the diversity of countries in the region with a variety of different migratory systems and regimes further adds complexity to this picture. While numerous studies are devoted to regular migratory movements in and out of the Middle East (Baldwin-Edwards, 2005; Suter, 2005; İçduygu and Sert, 2011; International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2015; Jain and Oommen, 2015), and some to irregular movements (Fargues and Fandrich, 2012; Shah, 2013), human trafficking (Calandruccio, 2005; Jureidini, 2010; Harrof-Tavel and Nasri, 2013), asylum and refugee flows (Zaiotti, 2006; Al-Khalidi, Hoffman and Tanner, 2007), few studies directly focus on migrant smuggling in the Middle East (Baird, 2013 and 2017).

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