29 May 2015

A report issued by the Migration Policy Institute highlights knowledge gaps and weaknesses in the European response against migrant smugglers. Measures taken by politicians do not recognise that migrants make and change choices at every stage of their journey, aware of the dangers and risks involved. Furthermore, about the structure and economy of smuggling networks is still unknown to researchers and politicians.

The report argues that by focusing on push-pull factors, policymakers completely ignore the fact that migrants make choices all along their journey; moreover, that their ambitions and motives may change both before, and during, their travel. Several reasons could account for these changes, for instance, difficulties faced prior to their departure, seeking work in Europe may be prohibitive, or they may have been pushed to take decisions against their will.

In addition, MPI points out that decision-makers continue to rely on analysis that overgeneralises information from migrants who have succeeded in reaching their destination, without including those who change, fail or abandon their initial plans to go to Europe.

The report also observes, that for migrants, the risks of death or injury during their journey, seems to be insignificant compared with the immediate threats to their personal safety faced at home. At the same time, long-term risks, such as finding a job, or bringing family members in Europe at a later stage, are more important when taking the decision to leave. Thus, poor information is not the sole factor contributing to migrants taking high risk decisions.

Finally, the report notes that further research is needed with regards to the organisational structures and economics of migrant smuggling, as well as supporting policymakers in their cooperation with third countries. In this regard, the report proposes some recommendations, put forward on the basis of the available evidence acquired thus far.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 29 May 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.