Gabriella Sanchez

Research Fellow
  • Phone: +39 055 4685 782
  • Gabriella Sanchez coordinates migrant smuggling research at the Migration Policy Centre. She is an ethnographer interested in the everyday dynamics of irregular migration facilitation. Her work (carried out in the Americas, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe) draws from the experiences and perspectives of migrants and the people behind their journeys. At the MPC she has worked to strengthen the empirical and conceptual base of "crimes of mobility," to increase the understanding of smuggling as part of community life and its economic impact, as well as to document the roles played by women, young people and indigenous communities in the facilitation of mobility. She is the author of Human Smuggling and Border Crossings (Routledge 2016) and co-editor of the 2018 Special Issue on Migrant Smuggling of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences.

    Research topics: migrant smuggling, human trafficking, border security, illicit markets, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking
    Geographic areas: US Mexico Border, Latin America, Mexico, Central America, North Africa and the Middle East
    ORCID ID: orcid.org/0000-0002-6543-346X

    Books and special issues of academic journals
  • Sanchez, Gabriella and Sheldon Zhang, eds. (2020) Special Issue of Victims and Offenders Journal: the Three-Pronged Security Challenges of Trafficking, Kidnapping and Smuggling, 15 (3).
  • Sanchez, Gabriella and Luigi Achilli, eds. (2019). Critical Insights on Irregular Facilitation: Global Perspectives. Robert Schuman Centre, European University Institute
  • Zhang, Sheldon, Gabriella Sanchez and Luigi Achilli, L. eds. (2018). Special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on migrant smuggling676(1).
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2016).Border Crossings and Human Smuggling. Routledge Series on Borders and Crime. Routledge. London, UK. (Nominated for Best Book of the Year, International Association for the Study of Organized Crime).


  • Refereed journal articles
  • Sanchez, Gabriella and Blanca Navarrete (2020). Risks and challenges to migrant, asylum seekers and refugees living under COVID-19 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Special Issue: COVID-19: A new challenge for migration Policy. Migration Policy and Practice Journal10(2):48-53. International Organization for Migration, Berlin.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2020). Victimization, Offending and Resistance in Mexico: toward critical discourse and grounded methodologies in organized crime researc Sanchez, G and Zhang, S., eds. Victims and Offenders, Special issue on Trafficking, Kidnapping and Smuggling, 15(3) 390-393.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella and Sheldon Zhang (2020) In their own words: Children and the facilitation of migrant journeys on the US Mexico border. Victims and Offenders, edited by Sanchez, G and Zhang, S. Special issue on Trafficking, Kidnapping and Smuggling, 15(3) 370-389.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2018). Children and Irregular Migration Practices: Missing Children or Missing data? Migration Policy and Practice Journal 8(2):30-33. International Organization for Migration, Berlin
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2018). ‘Circuit Children’: the experiences and perspectives of children engaged in migrant smuggling facilitation on the US-Mexico border. Anti-Trafficking Review, 11: 103-119.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella and Sheldon Zhang (2018), “Rumors, Encounters, Collaborations, Survival: The Migrant Smuggling-Drug Trafficking Nexus in the US Southwest”, Annals of the American Academy of Political Sciences, edited by Zhang, S., Sanchez, G. and Achilli, L., Special Issue on Migrant Smuggling, 676(1): 135-151.
  • Zhang, Sheldon, Gabriella Sanchez and Luigi Achilli, L. (2018), “Crimes of Solidarity in Mobility: alternative views on migrant smuggling”, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Special Issue on Migrant Smuggling. 676(1):6-15.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2017), “Beyond the Matrix of Oppression: Reframing human smuggling through intersectionality-informed approaches”, Theoretical Criminology, edited by Paik, L. and Parmar, A. Special Issue on Intersectionality and Criminology, 21(1): 46-56.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2017), “Critical Perspectives on Clandestine Migration Facilitation: and Overview of Migrant Smuggling Research”, Journal of Human Security and Migration, 5(1): 9-27.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2016), “‘It’s all in their Brain’: Constructing the Figure of the Trafficking Victim on the US Mexico Border”, Anti-Trafficking Review, 7: 97-114.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2016) “Women as Human Smuggling Facilitators: The case of the US Southwest”, Manwaring, Cetta and Brigden, Noelle, eds. Geopolitics, Special Issue on Irregular Migration and Brokerage, 21(2):387- 406.
  • Provine, Mary and Gabriella Sanchez (2011), “Suspecting Immigrants: Exploring Links between Racialized Anxieties and Expanded Police Powers in Arizona”,Policing and Society 21(4) 2011: 468-479.

  • Book chapters
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2020). Who is a smuggler?, in Carrera, S., Courtin, D., Geddes, A., eds. 20 Year Anniversary of the Tampere Programme: Europeanisation Dynamics of the EU area of Freedom, Security and Justice. European University Institute, Florence. 183-195.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2018), “Portrait of a Human Smuggler: Race, Class and gender among Facilitators of Irregular Migration on the US Mexico Border”, in: Palma, A., Vasquez, Y. and Bosworth, M. eds. Enforcing the Boundaries of Belonging: Race, Criminal Justice and Migration Control. Oxford University Press, London. pp. 29-42.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella. (2018), “‘This Time I Am Going to Cross!’: Fighting Entrapment Processes Through the Provision of Human Smuggling Services on the US–Mexico Border”, in: Gerard, A. and Vecchio, F., eds. Tracing Responsibility: the entrapment of asylum seekers in precarious livelihoods. Palgrave McMillan.pp.35-155.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella and Nicholas Natividad (2017), “Reframing Migrant Smuggling as a Form of Knowledge: The View from the US Mexico Border”, in: Cengiz Guznay and Nina Witjes, Eds. Border Politics: DefiningSpaces of Governance and Forms of Transgression. Springer, Vienna. pp. 67-84.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella. (2016), “Smuggling as a Spectacle: Irregular Migration and Coyotes in Contemporary US Latino Popular Culture”, in: Aldama, Frederick, ed. The Routledge Handbook of Latino Pop Culture. New York, Routledge. pp. 413-423.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2015). “Human Smuggler Facilitators in the US Southwest”, in: Sharon Pickering and Julie Ham, eds. Routledge Handbook on Crime and International Migration. Routledge. London, UK. pp. 275- 286.
  • Provine, Mary and Gabriella Sanchez (2012), “Suspecting Immigrants: Exploring Links between Racialized Anxieties and Expanded Police Powers in Arizona”, in: Leanne Weber, Ben Bowling, eds. Stop and Search: Police Power in Global Contexts. London, UK: Routledge.

  • Research and policy reports
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2020). Beyond Militias and Tribes: the facilitation of migration in Libya. Working Paper no. 9, Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute, Florence
  • Sanchez, Gabriella and Luigi Achilli (2020). Stranded: the impacts of COVID-19 on irregular migration and migrant smuggling. Migration Policy Centre, Policy brief no. 20 European University Institute, Florence.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2020). Facilitation of Human Smuggling in Libya and Tunisia. In Capasso, M., ed. Report on Political economy as sources of threats in the EU’s neighbouring regions and related conditions for resilience. EU-LISTCO Project. 24-30.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2020). Migration, IDPs and Terrorism: other risks? Bicchi, F. and Legucka, A., eds. Report on radicalisation, political revisionism, role of migration and demography as sources of threats in the EU’s neighbouring regions and related conditions for resilience. EU-LISTCO Project. 27-33
  • Capasso, Matteo, Jedrzej Czerep, Andrea Dessi and Gabriella Sanchez (2019). Libya Country Report. December 2019. EULISTCO Project.
  • Bargues-Pedreny Pol, Aurora Bergmaier, Federica Bicchi, Amelie Buchwald, Karoline Eickhoff, Pol Morillas, Gabriella Sanchez, Anna Schmauder (2019). Does resilience permeate foreign policy? A review of the instruments of the EU, Germany, France and Italy. EULISTCO Project.
  • Carrera, Sergio, Lina Vosyliute, Stephanie Smialowski, Jennifer Allsop, Gabriella Sanchez (2018). Fit for purpose? The Facilitation Directive and the Criminalisation of Humanitarian Assistance to Irregular Migrants: 2018 Update. PETI Committee, European Parliament.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2018). Five Misconceptions about Migrant Smuggling. Migration Policy Centre, Policy Brief 7. European University Institute, Florence.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella; Rezart Hoxhaj, Nadina Sabrin, Andrew Geddes, Luigi Achilli, Sona Kalantaryan. (2018). A study of the communication channels used by migrants and asylum seekers in italy, with a particular focus on online and social media. European Commission: DG Home, Brussels.
  • Achilli, Luigi and Gabriella Sanchez (2017). “Methodological Approaches in Human Smuggling Research: Documenting Irregular Migration Facilitation in the Americas and the Middle East”. Special Issue: Measuring Irregular Migration Innovative Data Practices. Migration Policy and Practice Journal7(2): 21-25. International Organization for Migration, Berlin.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella, Garcia, Blanca, Loera, Fernando, Zavala, Carlos (2017). Neither criminals nor illegals: boys, girls and adolescents in the migrant smuggling market on the US Mexico Border. DHIA-University of Texas, El Paso.
  • Achilli, Luigi and Sanchez, Gabriella (2017). What does it mean to disrupt the business models of people smugglers?. Migration Policy Centre Policy Brief no. 9. European University Institute, Florence.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2016). “Human Smuggling trends in the Americas”. Lackzo, Frank, ed., Data and Research on Human Smuggling: A Global Report.International Organization for Migration. Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2016). “Crossing Borders: Migrant Smuggling Organizations on the US Mexico Border”. Research in Brief Series, Center for Law and Human Behavior, University of Texas at El Paso, Texas.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2016). “Crime and Kidnapping involving migrants transiting through Central America and Mexico”. Fatal Journeys Vol. 2: Identification and Tracing of Dead and Missing Migrants. International organization of Migration, Geneva.
  • Sanchez, Gabriella (2015). “Forensic Processes Applicable to the Human Remains of Border Crossers”. International Committee of the Red Cross, Washington, D.C.

  • Blogs, webcasts, podcasts, media coverage/references
  • What the Essex case tells us about the current state of migrant smuggling from Europe into the UK
  • COVID-19 Compounds Families’ Painful Search for Missing and Disappeared Migrants
  • IOM COVID-19 Analytical Snapshot 45: travel restrictions and mobility update
  • A conversation with Bina D’ Costa on migrant smuggling and human trafficking
  • Stranded: the impacts of COVID-19 in irregular migration and migrant smuggling
  • Forced Migration: Closure of Borders, Xenophobia & Discriminatory Treatment
  • The “real” transformation of migrant smuggling in the time of COVID-19
  • Migrant workers under the COVID-19 lockdown: an MPC webinar
  • Rethinking smuggling in Libya
  • Deconstructing the Myth of the Migrant Smuggler
  • Changing the narrative of smugglers
  • UK truck deaths shine spotlight on human trafficking
  • The El Paso shooting must be seen in a broader context of racial violence at the US-Mexico border