Jointly with the Institute for Security Studies, the Global Initiative published The Niger-Libya corridor (Nov 2016) as part of a research project on human smuggling from Africa to Europe, funded by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF). Our research team sat down with smugglers themselves in Libya, Turkey, in the Sahel and in Sub-Saharan Africa to understand who are the smugglers behind Europe’s migration crisis, to understand how they operate, what drew them into the trade, and how they are responding to international community efforts to end illicit migration.

Instability and high levels of violence in Libya preclude credible interventions to stem irregular migration flows from off the coast of Libya to Europe. As a result, policy-makers have increasingly been looking to the transit country of Niger in order to reduce the number of migrants crossing into southern Libya for onward travel to Europe via the Mediterranean. In Niger, international attention, premised on the assumption that European interests are congruent with those of local actors, has concentrated on the city of Agadez, a smuggling hub in the Sahara Desert. Yet, vested interests related to migrant smuggling and the free flow of people in Niger are misaligned with those of Europe, and the city of Agadez is in fact part of a broader system of ethnically derived zones of protection and control embedded in the political economy of the Sahel. Interventions designed to reduce migration flows and enhance protection for the migrants must be predicated on a far more nuanced understanding of local dynamics and the non-state actors facilitating the trade, so as to avoid destabilising one of the few pockets of stability in an already volatile region. This paper draws from interviews with local communities and smugglers themselves along the Niger-Libya corridor.

About the authors
Peter Tinti is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime and independent journalist, focusing on conflict, human rights and organized crime. As part of his work for the Global Initiative, Tinti has written and contributed to several reports on organized crime in the Sahel, narcotics trafficking in Mali, and migrant smuggling networks in Africa, Asia, and Europe. In addition to his work for the Global Initiative, Tinti’s writing and photography has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and Vice, among other outlets. He is also the co-author, along with Tuesday Reitano, of Migrant, refugee, smuggler, saviour (Hurst, 2016), a book on the migrant smuggling industry behind Europe’s migration crisis.

Tom Westcott is a British freelance journalist based in Libya, writing mainly about the Middle East, with a particular focus on Libya. Westcott contributes regularly to Middle East Eye and the humanitarian publication IRIN and has written for The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Daily Mail.


©IOM/Amanda Nero

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