Academic journal article International Social Science Review

People Smuggling in Afghanistan and Niger: Iatrogenesis and Europe's "Migration Crisis"

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

People Smuggling in Afghanistan and Niger: Iatrogenesis and Europe's "Migration Crisis"

Article excerpt

With migration, immigration, and human movement as topics of growing international concern, the collective tendency is to misconstrue and generalize certain concepts. This perpetuates a narrative that fits within a predetermined, generally Eurocentric, framework of global understanding. That Europe's social fabric is constantly under siege due to extensive networks of human traffickers and people smugglers from the Middle East and Africa, for example, is an argument that has been used to justify further militarization and heightened security at the expense of border countries. This perception is detrimental not only because it undercuts the abuse suffered by true victims of human trafficking, but by placing people smuggling in the same category, it criminalizes a large swath of migrants and keeps the lines blurred between the guilty and the innocent, who belongs and who does not. Differentiating between human trafficking and people smuggling serves as an introduction to the analysis in terms of policies that address smuggling specifically and how they can be improved.

A 2015 report commissioned by the EU highlights the pervasiveness and relevance of people smuggling in recent years, stating that every one of the irregular migrants who entered the EU that year bought the services of a smuggler at some point before their arrival. (1) Highlighted in this paper are the regions of Nimruz, Afghanistan and Agadez, Niger, which have been used as smuggling hubs as early as the dawn of the Silk Road. Their geostrategic locations as migration intersections allow for already prolific people smuggling operations to truly explode by expanding and streamlining ancient routes and crossing points with modern technology and communication. This comparison seeks to complicate people smuggling as a stabilizing regional industry and to indicate how its expansion connects three continents through human movement.

The comparison between Afghanistan and Niger in this way problematizes the EU's border policies, suggesting a starting point for a solution for migrants and for receiving countries.

In an attempt to discover why and how these parallel migrant flows have bourgeoned simultaneously without interaction or communication between them, as well as the direct correlation between European policies and increasingly sophisticated smuggling operations, it is imperative to note the deep entrenchment of the smuggling industry in both Afghanistan and Niger. Combatting people smuggling with militarization and securitization historically results in instability, triggering a negative ripple effect for migrants throughout the region. The following challenge must therefore be seriously considered: continuing Europe's protectionist border policy and failing to consider other courses of action--in terms of addressing existing smuggling operations specifically--may force the Nigerien and Afghan economies to become even more dependent on the smuggling industry while Europe's migration crisis would not be mitigated in the long or short term. Contrarily, if new policies protecting only European interests are implemented with no viable or sustainable alternatives in either Niger or Afghanistan, the immediate regional effects will be detrimental. This is already evidenced by increasingly fatal border crossings and higher migrant death rates--in 2017, one in forty-two migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to reach Europe via North Africa. (2) Given that previous policies regarding people smuggling tend to focus on curbing irregular migration in general, this paper argues that short-term action against smuggling, in particular, should recognize the value of local and international collaboration aimed at rendering it a comparatively less profitable profession, while establishing a path to long-term regional stabilization. As a conceptual and comparative study, recognizing the similarities between these migratory flows not only provides a policy guideline that could be beneficial to both countries, but recognizes the inextricable relationship between the EU's border policies, people smuggling, and human movement in terms of mutual intensification. …

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