Trafficking Migrants: Desperate Measures

Concerns about internal security have risen since September 11 and many countries are considering how to tighten migration and asylum rules to screen out potential terrorists. But the idea of immigrants or refugees as an internal security threat is not new. It is a worry that has been steadily growing for a decade, in response to another security problem: the exponential increase in migrant trafficking and smuggling networks. The central problem here is not so much who enters, but rather how they enter. Trafficking is not only highly dangerous and exploitative for those trying to move, but it also poses a clear security threat. So how serious is this, and why has it emerged now?

The World Today Published 1 November 2001 Updated 26 October 2020 5 minute READ

Christina Boswell

It is by definition difficult to estimate the scale of trafficking – but some experts have produced figures on the basis of what is known about existing routes, prices charged by traffickers, and the numbers of those caught.

Thus the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated in 1994 that it was a global business worth around $5-7 billion per year, although seven years on it is likely to be far higher. The UN recently concluded that this sum was being made annually from the trafficking of prostitutes alone.

Those trafficked may pay anything between $2,000 and $40,000 or more, depending on the country of destination and route. The numbers involved are also difficult to calculate – IOM has recently estimated that 700,000 women and children move this way each year. Others believe it may be up to two million per annum. According to European officials, around half a million of these head for Europe.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.