Financing of human smuggling

This snapshot focuses on the economics and financing of smuggling of people on the move in West and North Africa. It draws on 5,171 surveys with refugees and migrants conducted in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Libya and Tunisia from February to October 2021.

It is also based on 356 surveys among smugglers conducted in the same countries during the same period. It analyses fees for smuggler services and payment modalities, providing valuable insights on the overall dynamics of smugglers’ economic activities.

Key findings

  • Smuggling makes up 60% of the journey costs for the surveyed refugees and migrants who use smugglers. This share is highest among respondents in Libya.
  • The majority of smugglers surveyed increased their fees in the last 6 months of 2021 (57%), most often because of higher demand, higher costs and increased risks due to government controls.
  • The vast majority of surveyed refugees and migrants (95%) pay their smugglers in cash and the majority (59%) pay the full fees before departure.
  • Data suggest that detention – more specifically, paying for release from detention – can make up a large proportion of overall journey costs.
  • Based on our primary data and estimates on the volume of irregular migration from East and West Africa to Libya and Tunisia, we estimate the value of the smuggling business along these two migration routes towards Libya and Tunisia at a total of USD 60.5 million for 2021.
Full titleFinancing of human smuggling in West and North Africa
PublisherMixed Migration Centre
Media typeReport / PDF
Topics Migration Routes & Transport
Regions North Africa, West Africa

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