The role of organized crime in the smuggling of migrants of West Africa to the European Union

The new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) investigates the involvement of organized criminal groups in the smuggling of migrants from West Africa towards the European Union (EU).

Irregular migration from Africa to Europe attracted much attention in the past years: the dramatic events in 2005 in the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast,  the Italian island Lampedusa off the coast of Tunisia, the often deadly journeys undertaken by young African irregular migrants trying to reach Europe by crossing the Sahara desert or embarking in journeys in flimsy boats on the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea, ... those are only three examples.

This year, media attention on irregular arrivals on European shores rose in the context of uprisings in Maghreb countries and increased unrest in some West African countries, such as Côte d'Ivoire.

The involvement of organized crime in the smuggling of migrants is a sensitive and controversial issue in West African countries. The report contains 4 key findings:

  1. Transnational organized criminal groups are generally involved in the smuggling of migrants from West Africa to Europe. However, there are important differences among them in terms of specialization and professionalism;
  2. Specialization and the building of transnational criminal networks usually come as a result of increased efficiency in border interdiction;
  3. In most cases, smugglers are migrants themselves; and
  4. Irregular migrants generally do not see themselves as victims, and smugglers do not see themselves as criminals.

UNODC, as guardian of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, possesses specific expertise and experience that could be put at the service of all countries affected to support them in matters linked to prevention, legislation, operations or prosecution.

For further information you can go to the official website of the UNODC by clicking here.

Publication Date:
Mon 03 Oct 2011
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