Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants

About the project

The UNODC Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants is a pilot project to assess the characteristics, drivers and impacts of migrant smuggling in rapidly changing contexts. The Observatory collects and disseminates data, information and analysis on smuggling of migrants. The information is gathered through regular field research in origin, transit and destination countries, with people on the move, law enforcement, civil society, and other key actors. This is complemented with targeted surveys with people on the move and migrant smugglers in origin and transit countries. 

The Observatory provides up-to-date evidence on the modus operandi of migrant smugglers, smuggling routes, financial aspects and abuses suffered in the context of migrant smuggling. The information and analysis provided is essential to better understand the phenomenon of smuggling of migrants, in order to better prevent and combat smuggling and related crimes, and to protect the human rights of people who are smuggled. The information will be updated on a regular basis to provide real-time information, and to allow for a longitudinal assessment of the data and information.

Key research areas

The Methodology

The UNODC Observatory research methodology is inductive and flexible, guided by the context of the research field, rather than following a rigid formula or theoretical framework. Inductive research draws as much as possible from the observation of the realities of the research field, which is then analysed in order to identify trends and form theoretical frameworks, as opposed to deductive research, which starts with theories and then tests them according to observation of the research field. The SOM Observatory methodology is also interdisciplinary, combining primary research and surveys in the field with desk-based research, as well as analysing qualitative and quantitative sources. 

Click here to download the full Observatory Methodology!

The Observatory website is regularly updated to cover more smuggling routes and include the latest research findings. The first phase of research focuses on the characteristics of migrant smuggling in West Africa, North Africa and the Central Mediterranean. Below is an overview of sea smuggling routes to Europe.

Sea routes to Europe

The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

For more information on the UNODC Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants please contact us at: UNODC-research@un.org

To access the analysis, click on the smuggling routes below (more routes will be covered soon!):
For the best viewing experience please use Chrome (Edge does not fully support Storymaps yet)


Key Findings on the Characteristics of Migrant Smuggling in West Africa, North Africa and the Central Mediterranean
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Smuggling of migrants from west africa to morocco.
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© UNODC / Yasser Rezahi