MPC Lunchtime Seminar – Irregular Migration and Smuggling Networks: Syrian refugees flow to Europe

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Speaker: Luigi Achilli (Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute)


Smugglers channel migrant streams to Europe across different sea routes. A popular pathway is the eastern Mediterranean route through Turkey and Greece. This route has registered a peak of arrival over the last year. This is hardly surprising. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, it is estimated that millions of Syrians have fled their homes; as of October 2015, 700,000 of them have claimed asylum in the European Union. Refugees have ideally two options to reach Europe: one is legal, through resettlement programmes, family reunification, university fellowships and scholarships, training programmes, private sponsorships, etc. The other option is the irregular one: an exhausting and perilous journey that takes them across two continents and several countries. The former would be by far the safest and quickest route. Yet, the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to EU member states remains for the very large majority of them a chimera. The past months have also witnessed a dramatic abatement of travel costs and journey time, which has made irregular migration attractive for an increasing number of refugees. Many transit countries’ policy vis-à-vis refugees seems to have indeed veered toward a regularization of irregular migration. By documenting the flow of Syrian refugees from the Middle East to Europe, this paper wants to shed light on a seemingly contradictory trend: as the western Balkan corridor opened up to irregular migration, the change has boosted the proliferation of smuggling networks, yet it has also drastically curbed their area of operation. In so doing, it argues that a truly effective answer to human smuggling would require the EU and its state members to concentrate on tackling the demand for smuggler services rather than addressing the smuggling networks directly.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

Future seminar dates for your diaries: 10 March, 21 April, 19 May, 2 June