The Structure and Dynamics of Migrant Smuggling from Libya to Italy

Migration and, in particular, irregular migration from North Africa and the Middle East represents one of the most relevant and demanding challenges that the European Union (EU) has to address in our age. In the last two decades, the Mediterranean Sea has become  the  most  porous  border  between Europe and its neighbours. Furthermore, it has become the  most  dangerous  border  in  the  world  between countries  that  are  not  at  war  with  each  other (Fargues & Bonfanti, 2014). In this context, over the past decade, Libya has emerged as a critical transit country for irregular migration toward the EU. Furthermore, the “Central Mediterranean route” that connects Libya to Italy is the single most dangerous migratory route in the world. The illegal transport of these migrants is in the hands of various criminal groups. In the literature on irregular migration from Africa toward Europe, contrasting claims regarding the nature, the activities and the social organisation of migrant smuggling can be found. Furthermore, many of these works are not based on solid empirical evidence. In fact, migrant smuggling is notoriously an illegal clandestine phenomenon which has been difficult to research. On the one hand, this field of study presents conceptual confusion and partial explanations; on the other hand, there is fundamental lack of hard evidence. The aim of this seminar is to explore the structure and dynamics of migrant smuggling from Libya to Italy, from a social science perspective, with a particular interest in the “criminal” dimension of the phenomenon. In particular, the presentation focuses on the evolution of migratory flows in the Central Mediterranean in the twenty-first century, the modus operandi and internal structure of smuggling networks, the role of the States in the area, and the (terrible) conditions of smuggled migrants.