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.




Mexico is an important hub in the Latin American smuggling market. Its relevance has been historically tied to its geographic proximity to the United States – the top migrant destination in the world – and to the migratory patterns that for generations have connected both countries. Yet demographic changes began to take place by the turn of the century. United States-bound migration levels from Mexico started to decline, while increasing numbers of Central American, South American and Caribbean migrants often fleeing from conditions of socioeconomic and human insecurity began to trek through Mexico on route to the United States. Combined with the increased visibility of extracontinental migrants – primarily those from Africa and Asia – and an exponential growth in asylum applications after several decades as a migrant-generating country, Mexico is now an important migrant transit and destination locale. Yet simultaneously, it also presents a series of challenges rooted in the country’s complex security dynamics connected to the presence of organized crime, documented corruption and increasing levels of socioeconomic inequality. Mexico became a signatory of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in the year 2000, and ratified it in 2003.83 This chapter provides insights into Mexico’s migrant smuggling data, an overview of the empirical research on smuggling undertaken in and on the country, an analysis of its findings, and conclusions and recommendations on how to further build Mexico’s emerging body of scholarship on smuggling facilitation.


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