Jointly with the Institute for Security Studies, the Global Initiative published At the edge (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.

In 2015, over 16,000 Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans were caught while attempting to migrate to Europe covertly. Though North Africans are a relatively small portion of the masses of clandestine migrants, they are a critical group to understand. They are the innovators and early adaptors of new methods and routes for migrant smuggling, such as their pioneering in the 1990s and 2000s of the routes across the Mediterranean that now fuel Europe’s migration crisis. Understanding how and why North Africans migrate, the routes they use, and how these are changing, offers insights into how clandestine migration methods and routes in general may shift in the coming years. In shaping better responses to actual dynamics, it is important for countries to proactively address the chronic conditions that drive forced migration before they generate social instability.

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