The Niger-Libya corridor: smugglers' perspectives

Could economic incentives help curb irregular migration to Europe?

Instability and high levels of violence in Libya preclude credible interventions to stem irregular migration flows from off the coast of Libya to Europe. As a result, policy-makers have increasingly been looking to the transit country of Niger in order to reduce the number of migrants crossing into southern Libya for onward travel to Europe via the Mediterranean. In Niger, international attention, premised on the assumption that European interests are congruent with those of local actors, has concentrated on the city of Agadez, a smuggling hub in the Sahara Desert. Yet vested interests related to migrant smuggling and the free flow of people in Niger are misaligned with those of Europe, and the city of Agadez is in fact part of a broader system of ethnically derived zones of protection and control embedded in the political economy of the Sahel. Interventions designed to reduce migration flows and enhance protection for the migrants must be predicated on a far more nuanced understanding of local dynamics and the non-state actors facilitating the trade, so as to avoid destabilising one of the few pockets of stability in an already volatile region. This paper draws from interviews with local communities and smugglers themselves along the Niger-Libya corridor.

About the authors

Peter Tinti is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime and independent journalist, focusing on conflict, human rights and organized crime. As part of his work for the Global Initiative, Tinti has written and contributed to several reports on organized crime in the Sahel, narcotics trafficking in Mali, and migrant smuggling networks in Africa, Asia, and Europe. In addition to his work for the Global Initiative, Tinti’s writing and photography has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and Vice, among other outlets. He is also the co-author, along with Tuesday Reitano, of Migrant, refugee, smuggler, saviour (Hurst, 2016), a book on the migrant smuggling industry behind Europe’s migration crisis.

Tom Westcott is a British freelance journalist based in Libya, writing mainly about the Middle East, with a particular focus on Libya. Westcott contributes regularly to Middle East Eye and the humanitarian publication IRIN and has written for The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Daily Mail.

Picture: ©IOM/Amanda Nero


Other publications in the ISS Migration series:

The Khartoum Process: A sustainable response to human smuggling and trafficking?

At the edge: trends and routes of North African clandestine migrants

Breathing space: the impact of the EU-Turkey deal on irregular migration

Development partners
This paper was made possible with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The Institute for Security Studies is grateful for support from the other members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
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