The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) has undertaken a monthly monitoring programme focused on the political economy of human smuggling and trafficking in North Africa and the Sahel. 

The monitoring project stemmed from the GI-TOC’s 2017 publication ‘The human conveyor belt’. This was followed by the first report of the project, ‘The human conveyor belt broken’, which was published in early 2019. This report described the fall of the protection racket by Libyan militias that underpinned the surge in irregular migration between 2014 and 2017, and reported on the impact of the enforcement of a law criminalizing human smuggling in Niger between mid-2016 and 2019. 

The second report of the project, ‘Conflict, coping and COVID’, published in early 2021, detailed the evolution of human smuggling and trafficking in the face of Libyan conflict and the region-wide COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring both the disruption of the system and its broader continuity. 

In 2022, the GI-TOC published a series of reports covering Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Niger and Chad, as well as a regional overview brief. These reports focused on the sharp rise in human smuggling and trafficking in the region, as well as the diversification of the routes and methods used for movement. They also detailed the resilience of the smuggling and trafficking economies. This resilience stood in contrast to the more limited economic and systemic resilience of states in the two regions, which have struggled to re-emerge from the pandemic. 

In 2023, the GI-TOC is again publishing a series of country-focused reports, in addition to a regional overview brief. These build on the previous reports, mapping smuggling and trafficking, as well as the political and security dynamics that affected and influenced the irregular transport of migrants in 2022. 

The 2023 series follows the rebounding importance of smuggling from and through Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Niger, Chad and Mali and the ways in which dynamics play out differently in the individual countries in focus, as the global economic picture worsens, governance strains become more pronounced, and peace and security challenges rise.

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