In the period 2013-16, more than 1.5 million people have converged towards Europe from across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Some seek asylum from conflict, violence and humanitarian need; others are migrant workers taking the opportunity of a confluence of political instabilities and circumstance that has made migration to Europe more affordable and accessible than ever before.

This report, authored by Tuesday Reitano, Peter Tinti, Mark Shaw and Lucia Bird of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, presents the major findings of research conducted between July and September 2016 over eight major smuggling hubs between the Horn of Africa and Europe. The research methodology was a broad selection of key informant interviews – more than 600 individual interviews – with national government officials, civil society actors, international officials, think tanks and policy bodies, but most importantly with migrants and traffickers themselves. This was supplemented with a review of the growing body of literature on mixed migration in the region and towards Europe. In doing so, the study adopts an innovative approach, situating human smuggling within its local political economy, and proposing context relevant approaches in response.

This report assesses the nature of the smuggling market according to the three inter-dependent smuggling ‘systems’ that feature along the major route for Horn of Africans moving towards Europe:

  • Horn of Africa System (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Dadaab, Kenya; Khartoum, Sudan; Sudan/Eritrea Border; Eastern Sudan)
  • Sahel System (Agadez, Niger; Kufra, Libya; Sebha, Libya)
  • Maghreb Coastal System (Zuwara, Libya; Subratha, Libya; Alexandria, Egypt)

The major smuggling hubs and systems from the Horn of Africa to Europe

The goal of the market analysis was to understand the political economy of each system, identify key actors, and assess the extent of market consolidation by examining indicators provided through price and violence.

Addressing irregular migration and the burgeoning transnational organised crime of smuggling of migrants is an urgent challenge which the states of the region must address in partnership with the international community through an integrated response. Moreover, it is increasingly clear that this will need to be lead by development actors, as criminal justice and security approaches have not only failed to have a meaningful impact on the problem, but in some cases have actually lead to an increase in the harm caused by the crime’s continued proliferation. Therefore, based upon the research and market analysis, this report proposes a more holistic series of programmatic interventions that could be pursued by development or other actors, as well as a reorientation of some law enforcement priorities.

Integrated Responses to the Horn of Africa, May 2017

Download PDF
Share this article


Tuesday Reitano

Tuesday Reitano is Deputy Director at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and a senior research advisor at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, where she leads the ENACT programme on behalf of the GI. Tuesday was formerly the director of CT MORSE, an independent policy and monitoring unit for the EU’s programmes in counter-terrorism, and for 12 years was a policy specialist in the UN System, including with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Development Group (UNDG) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In this time, she has amassed a wealth of experience in fragile states and development working both with states, civil society and at the community level to strengthen resilience to transnational threats, promote sustainable development and the rule of law. Tuesday has authored a number of policy orientated and academic reports with leading institutions such as the UN, World Bank and OECD on topics ranging from organized crime’s evolution and impact in Africa, on human smuggling, illicit financial flows, and the nexus between crime, terrorism, security and development. Tuesday is the lead author of a forthcoming OECD flagship publication: Illicit Financial Flows: Criminal Economies in West Africa, co-author of Migrant, Refugee; Smuggler, Saviour, a book published in 2016 by Hurst on the role of smugglers in Europe’s migration crisis, and the editor of Militarised Responses to Organised Crime: War on Crime, published by Palgrave in 2017. She holds three Masters Degrees in Business Administration (MBA), Public Administration (MPA) and an MSc in Security, Conflict and International Development (MSc). Tuesday is based in Geneva, Switzerland, with her family.

Read more

Peter Tinti

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. Tinti’s work covering the conflict in Mali earned him recognition by Action on Armed Violence, which included him on its list titled, “Top 100: The most influential journalists covering armed violence.

He co-authored a book with Tuesday Reitano on the smuggling networks behind Europe’s migration crisis, Migrant, Refugee; Smuggler, Savior, published by Hurst Publishers in September 2016.

Read more

Mark Shaw

Mark is the Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Mark is also a Senior Associate of the LSE International Drug Policy Unit, (LSE US Centre). He previously held the National Research Foundation Professor of Justice and Security at the University of Cape Town, Department of Criminology.

Mark worked for ten years at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including as Inter-regional Advisor, Chief of the Criminal Justice Reform Unit and with the Global Programme against Transnational Organised Crime, where he lead projects and provided technical assistance to national governments, bilateral donors and international organisations in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, West Africa, the Sahel and Southern Africa, on security sector and criminal justice reform, and countering transnational threats.

A South African national, before joining the UN, Mark held a number of positions in government and civil society where he worked on issues of public safety and urban violence in the post-apartheid transition.

He holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and has published widely on organised crime, security and justice reform issues.

Read more

Lucia Bird Ruiz-Benitez de Lugo

Lucia is a Senior Analyst at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Lucia researches and writes on a broad range of organised crime types internationally, however her focus to date has been on human smuggling, human trafficking, drug trafficking and policy, and cyber crime. She is a practising lawyer in the data protection and cyber security space. Previously, Lucia worked as legal and policy adviser to the Planning and Development Department of the Punjab Government, Pakistan, and before that held the same role at the Ministry of Finance, Ghana. During this time Lucia was affiliated with Oxford Policy Management, a development consultancy headquartered in the UK. Prior to this Lucia worked as a corporate lawyer in London, where she is currently based.

Read more