Migrant smuggling - a deadly business

Currently, data is too scattered and incomplete to paint an accurate picture of numbers of people who are smuggled each year and the routes and methods used by those who smuggle them. Still, available evidence reveals the following trends and patterns:

  • Criminals are increasingly providing smuggling services to irregular migrants to evade national border controls, migration regulations and visa requirements. Most irregular migrants resort to the assistance of profit-seeking smugglers. As border controls have improved, migrants are deterred from attempting to illegally cross them themselves and are diverted into the hands of smugglers.
  • Migrant smuggling is a highly profitable business in which criminals enjoy low risk of detection and punishment. As a result, the crime is becoming increasingly attractive to criminals. Migrant smugglers are becoming more and more organized, establishing professional networks that transcend borders and regions.
  • The modus operandi of migrant smugglers is diverse. Highly sophisticated and expensive services rely on document fraud or 'visa-smuggling'. Contrasted with these are low cost methods which often pose high risks for migrants, and have lead to a dramatic increase in loss of life in recent years.
  • Migrant smugglers constantly change routes and modus operandi in response to changed circumstances often at the expense of the safety of the smuggled migrants.
  • Thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of the indifferent or even deliberate actions of migrant smugglers.

These factors highlight the need for responses to combat the crime of migrant smuggling to be coordinated across and between regions, and adaptable to new methods. In this regard, UNODC seeks to assist countries in implementing the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol while promoting  a comprehesensive response to the issue of migrant smuggling.

 

For further information please contact the  Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section .

 

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