Working Paper
Illegal Immigration, Human Trafficking, and Organized Crime

It is important to make a careful distinction between illegal immigration, human smuggling, and human trafficking which are nested, but yet different concepts. This distinction is relevant because these different categories of the illegal movement of people across borders have quite different legal and political consequences. Human smuggling and trafficking have become a world-wide industry that ‘employs’ every year millions of people and leads to the annual turnover of billions of dollars. Many of the routes and enclaves used by the smugglers have become institutionalized; for instance, from Mexico and Central America to the United States, from West Asia through Greece and Turkey to Western Europe, and within East and Southeast Asia. More often than not flourishing smuggling routes are made possible by weak legislation, lax border controls, corrupted police officers, and the power of the organized crime. Naturally, poverty and warfare contribute to the rising tide of migration, both legal and illegal. In general, illegal migration seems to be increasing due to the strict border controls combined with the expansion of the areas of free mobility, such as the Schengen area, and the growing demographic imbalance in the world. The more closed are the borders and the more attractive are the target countries, the greater is the share of human trafficking in illegal migration and the role played by the national and transnational organized crime. The involvement of criminal groups in migration means that smuggling leads to trafficking and thus to victimization and the violation of human rights, including prostitution and slavery.