Why Migrant Smuggling Pays



Drawing on empirical research in Afghanistan and Pakistan, this article ‘follows the money’ for 50 migrants smuggled to the UK, to cast light on the financing of smuggling. The means used to raise the money to pay smugglers ranged from drawing on savings to selling property, land and jewellery. Payments were made to a third-party, who did not release the payment to the smuggler until migrants had arrived in their destination - effectively a ‘money-back guarantee’ on smuggling. Smugglers disbursed about half of their fee to forgers, procurers of passports, airport officials and other intermediaries required to facilitate smuggling. Most migrants quickly found work in their destination and started remitting soon after their arrival. On average remittances were at a sufficient level to repay the initial outlay on smugglers’ fees after two years, and thereafter remittances on average more than doubled household incomes at home. In this case study, smuggling therefore paid for the range of intermediaries involved in facilitating it, for migrants themselves, and for migrants’ households at home.