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Understanding Irregular Migration

Irregular Migration: This means entry of a person or a group of persons across a country’s border, in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country, with the intention to remain in the country.

Smuggling of Migrants: According to Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, Smuggling of Migrants is a crime involving the procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into a State of which that person is not a national or resident.

Virtually every country in the world is affected by this crime, whether as an origin, transit or destination country for smuggled migrants by profit-seeking criminals. Smuggled migrants are vulnerable to life-threatening risks and exploitation; thousands of people have suffocated in containers, perished in deserts or dehydrated at sea. Migrant smuggling fuels corruption, empowers organized crime and can lead to human trafficking.

According to Nigeria Immigration Service, no fewer 10, 000 of Nigerians have died between January 2017 to May 2017 while trying to illegally migrate through the Mediterranean Sea and the deserts.

According to a United Nations Report, over 4000 Africans died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in 2016. Irregular migrants from Nigeria account for 21 per cent of the total 171, 299 immigrants that braved the Mediterranean odds to arrive Italy in 2016.

According to the figures recently released by the Italian Ministry of Interior, about 171,299 Africans migrated illegally into Italy in 2016 alone. Of this, 36,000, representing 21% of the number is said to be Nigerians. These migrants are mostly youths in desperate quest for greener pastures. 

Difference between Smuggling and Human Trafficking:  Human smuggling and human trafficking are not the same. Human smuggling usually takes place with the consent of the person(s) being smuggled and the person’s relationship with the smuggler is terminated as soon as the person reaches his destination.

  1. Smuggling can be voluntary, while human trafficking is usually by deception or force.
  2. Human trafficking is a crime against individual while smuggling is a crime against a state.
  3. Victims of human trafficking can be taken to another country legally, with genuine documents, but smuggled migrants always enter another country illegally.
  4. In Smuggling, both smugglers and the smuggled persons are considered offenders by law
  5. In human trafficking, only the trafficker is considered an offender by law.
  6. Smuggling of migrants involves the consent of the migrant.
  7. Trafficking of persons doesn’t involve the consent of the person.

People Are Making Profit Through Smuggling:

  1. Migrant smuggling is a highly profitable business in which criminals enjoy low risk of detection and punishment. As a result, the crime is becoming increasingly attractive to criminals. Migrant smugglers are becoming more and more organized, establishing professional networks that transcend borders and regions.
  2. Migrant smugglers constantly change routes and modus operandi in response to changed circumstances often at the expense of the safety of the smuggled migrants.
  3. Thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of the indifferent or even deliberate actions of migrant smugglers.

Dangers of Irregular Migration/Humans Smuggling: Young people from Nigeria travel through the harsh climate of the Sahara Desert from Sokoto, through Niger Republic to Libya or Morocco before sailing through the turbulent tide of the Mediterranean Sea to Italy or Spain. At several points in their journey through the Desert, they encounter very hostile communities who subject them to various forms of dehumanizing treatment, such as harassment, rape, sex slavery and hard labour, among others

How Migration or Human Smuggling Lead To Human Trafficking?:

    1. People smuggling can lead to trafficking if, for example, the circumstances of the smuggled persons change during the journey or on arrival in the State leading to them becoming victims of violence and exploitation.
    2. While migration implies a level of individual choice, migrants are sometimes detained and even tortured by the people they pay to lead them across border
    3. Both illegal migration/migrant smuggling and human trafficking are profitable illegal business involving human beings and are carried out by criminal networks.
    4. Both human trafficking and illegal migration/smuggling have the same cause or push factor which include: poverty, unemployment, poor cost of production, war, political conflicts, discrimination.
    6. Human trafficking can start as smuggling (a person gives consent to be secreted across the border) and at a further stage involve abuse, deprivation of power, exploitation and debt bondage.
    8. According to SCS Journals, a case was investigated in2008-2009 in the Netherlands which concerned a group of unaccompanied minors smuggled with the use of forged documents from Nigeria to the Netherlands, and then trafficked to Spain and Italy to be exploited in the sex industry. All of the forged documents were arranged by the owner of the travel agency in Nigeria. A successful international investigation revealed a group of criminals running the gang, it included ‘”fixers” who arranged accommodation and connecting travel in the Netherlands, and pimps in Italy who had ‘ordered’ the victims.
    10. Human Smuggling/Illegal Migration has now become another strategy of traffickers. They make it look as if they are not the one forcing the victim to leave Nigeria, but end up victimizing then on the road or as soon as the arrive the destination country.
    11. Some smugglers are traffickers. Some traffickers can camouflage as smugglers willing to assist anyone who wants to travel to abroad for greener pastures, collects money to smuggle them, and end up trapping them. Also traffickers can use smugglers to recruit victims. This can take place when the smuggled person arrived the destination country, he is arranged to meet a trafficker who poses as a helper. From there, exploitation sets in, and the smuggled person automatically becomes a victim of human trafficking.
    13. Smugglers and traffickers have business relationships. For example, a smuggler can smuggle a migrant to a destination country, and advice the illegal migrant to contact someone (who is an unidentified trafficker) within the destination country for a particular opportunity. Because the migrant is naïve, and doesn’t know anyone at the destination country, he/she will follow the advice, and end up in a trafficking ring. Now two things have happened, he paid to be smuggled, and secondly, at the destination country be fall in the hands of traffickers.