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MMC West Africa & North Africa 4Mi Snapshot – September 2021 Smuggling, risks, and abuses: smuggler services and links to abuses (part 3 of 3)

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This is the third in a series of three 4Mi snapshots looking at the conjunction between smuggling and the risks and abuses faced by refugees and migrants moving through West and North Africa. It draws on 2,427 interviews conducted in Libya, Niger, Mali, and Tunisia between March and July 2021.

The first snapshot focused on smuggling and dangerous routes, and the role of smugglers as perpetrators of risks relative to other actors in these locations. The second snapshot focused on the link between the individual characteristic of the respondents (gender, nationality, and financial status) and reports of smugglers as perpetrators of risks. This third snapshot focuses on the link between smuggling services and the abuses faced by the refugees and migrants, as well as the link between reliance on smugglers and dangerous journeys.

This snapshot is produced in the context of a partnership with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants.

Key findings

• Greater reliance on smugglers corresponds to a more dangerous journey. Overall, we see linkages between use of more types of smuggler services and propensity to have experienced a protection incident, but the cause of the vulnerability is not clear. At times, these services may be coping mechanisms for people who have experienced or are facing abuses, and at times the smuggler may be the perpetrator of abuses.

• Respondents who paid smugglers for services which may point to a more dependent relationship with smugglers reported experiencing more types of abuse. This was the case for services such as the provision of documents, communications and money transfer. However, as above, it is not clear to what extent using smuggler services was a response to abuses or a cause of abuses.

• The overwhelming majority of respondents who used a smuggler and cited one of the five most dangerous places4 reported personally experiencing at least one abuse or violation. This was the case for 92% of the sample, and the proportion increased with the number of services used. 98% of respondents who used 5 or more smuggler services reported experiencing at least one abuse or violation.