Human smuggling and trafficking are rapidly growing transnational criminal activities that involve the recruitment, movement, and delivery of migrants from a sending region to a destination. This report examines trafficking and smuggling trends and routes to Europe, and profiles the facilitators and clients/victims of such activities.

Trafficked or smuggled migrants to Europe come from all regions of the world, and the primary transit routes are across the Mediterranean, and through the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and Turkey. Many of these are the same routes that are used for traded goods.

The report also details how the barriers to entry into these activities have created an enormous variety of facilitators who assist those seeking illegal entry into the European Union, ranging from small groups to complex international organizations. Other facilitators are not part of criminal networks, but instead either knowingly or unknowingly aid the process. Corruption is also deeply connected to the problem, as travel agencies, border guards, customs officials, consular officers, and other diplomatic personnel must be bribed or extorted for trafficking to be successful.

The report concludes with a menu of policy solutions that are likely to reduce trafficking and smuggling flows, noting that such policies must be multifaceted to address a variety of contributing factors simultaneously. Primarily, policymakers must address the demand for such migrants through education, prevention efforts, and prosecution; harmonize policy efforts within and across countries so that smugglers and traffickers do not just move to take advantage of the most permissive regulatory environment; decrease the profits of smugglers and traffickers; and improve labor laws so that legal immigrants may fill the demand for the work that currently employs smuggled migrants.

Image: Syrians and Iraq refugees arrive at Skala Sykamias Lesvos Greece; by Ggia; licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 

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