UNODC Research on Smuggling of Migrants

Key research activities
  • UNODC Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants: to be published in 2021, the Observatory is a web-based platform designed to assess the characteristics, drivers and impacts of migrant smuggling in rapidly changing contexts.
What is migrant smuggling ?

The internationally agreed definition of migrant smuggling stems from the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Smuggling of Migrants Protocol). The Protocol defines the crime of migrant smuggling as:

“the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident.” (Article 3, Smuggling of Migrants Protocol)

Parties that ratify the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol are requested to criminalize the conduct of smuggling of migrants as defined above and to criminalize the procurement of irregular stay, as well as producing, obtaining or providing fraudulent travel or identity documents for the purpose of enabling migrant smuggling. Thus, the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol covers offences related to the facilitation of both illegal entry and illegal stay of foreigners or persons who are not permanent residents when this is done to obtain a financial or other material benefit.

Looking for UNODC main page on smuggling of migrants ?

Research objectives

UNODC engages in data collection, research and information sharing to improve Member States’ capacities to combat migrant smuggling, as per the mandate given to UNODC by UN General Assembly Resolution A/73/186 (29.01.2019) to: “systematically collect data and information from Member States on migrant smuggling routes, the modus operandi of migrant smugglers and the role of transnational organized crime.

UNODC Research supports Member States' crime prevention and counter-smuggling responses by:

  • Providing accessible, accurate and updated information on the characteristics, drivers and impacts of migrant smuggling to policy-makers, experts and practitioners;
  • Informing evidence-based planning and programming aimed at preventing and combating migrant smugglers by providing briefings, presentations and advice to policy makers;
  • Informing more effective capacity building programmes for law enforcement and the criminal justice system in the regions of interest.