Why Do People Migrate? Part 1: Facts

Describe the role of criminal organizations in shaping the preferences of migrants towards specific migratory routes


Smuggling networks have to operate from locations where their activities are not unduly hindered by institutional countermeasures. For example, seizures of boats and other military and diplomatic interventions in 2002 led to a contraction of the market in Tunisia – smuggling became too costly there - and as a result operations moved to Libya. There, multi-ethnic transnational networks ensured that smuggling agents were able to transfer migrants from many different countries of origin, as well as sell passages to those travelling to Libya on their own. However, partly due to increased diplomatic pressure from Italy and the EU, the market in Libya started to decrease from about 2007 onwards. 2008 in particular saw a drop of 80%, due to refoulement at high sea as well as Libya’s rejection of migrants at its Southern border. As a result, smuggling networks were partially redirected to other routes, via Egypt, the Sinai and Greece. In Sinai, where Bedouin clans got involved in the business, smuggling practices were transformed into a form of trafficking, involving the violation of negotiated conditions, migrants being deprived of their liberty and exposed to violent treatment - causing yet greater suffering.

In general, African and Middle-Eastern migrants can only travel to Europe when assisted by smugglers, and their migratory route preferences will inevitably follow the business preferences of smugglers, which in turn are determined by the political climate and border control policies of the day.

Source text pp 32 - 42

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