At least 2.5 million migrants smuggled worldwide in 2016 – UNODC study

Migrant Smuggling

At least 2.5 million migrants smuggled worldwide in 2016, says UNODC study
Press Release
Vienna, 13 June 2018 – At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016, according to the first Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today. Migrant smuggling occurred in all regions of the world and generated an income for smugglers of up to US$7 billion, equivalent to what the United States or the European Union countries spent on global humanitarian aid in 2016.

The study describes 30 major smuggling routes worldwide and finds that demand for smuggling services is particularly high among refugees who, for lack of other means, may need to use smugglers to reach a safe destination fleeing their origin countries. Data suggests that many smuggling flows include unaccompanied or separated children, who might be particularly vulnerable to deception and abuse by smugglers and others. In 2016, nearly 34,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived in Europe (in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain).

“This transnational crime preys on the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC Director of Policy Analysis and Public Affairs. “It’s a global crime that requires global action, including improved regional and international cooperation and national criminal justice responses.”…


2018 Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants
June 2018 – 170 pages
This is the first Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants from UNODC. In line with UNODC’s mandate as the guardian of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its supplementing Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, the research represents a start towards developing a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the criminal aspect of migrant smuggling. Complementing UNODC’s existing support to Member States, it highlights potential avenues for strengthening measures against migrant smuggling, and can help to inform effective criminal justice responses. It is also meant to contribute to continuing efforts towards the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement prepared under the auspices of the UN, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

Policy implications [p.12; Excerpt]
:: This first UNODC Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants presents a wealth of information on the different manifestations of this crime and its harm to migrants and states. While many information gaps remain, the knowledge compiled in this Study has important implications for policies and programmes.

:: The study shows that smuggling of migrants is a transnational crime which generates significant economic returns. Among its consequences are thousands of migrants who are killed, tortured and exploited every year. The United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling
of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, is the only internationally agreed legal instrument designed to prevent and combat smuggling of migrants. The Protocol also reiterates the importance of protecting migrants’ rights. Ratifying or acceding to the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, and ensuring full
implementation, including the defining element of “financial and other material benefit” are vital first steps to effectively address the crime and protect migrants.

:: The increasing numbers of unaccompanied and separated children among smuggled migrants on some routes pose great challenges to children’s rights and wellbeing. Institutions providing assistance to migrants as well as law enforcement and migration authorities need to be equipped and trained to address the particular vulnerabilities among children who are smuggled and to guarantee the best interest of the child…