Paolo Campana

Out of Africa: The Organisation of Migrant Smuggling across the Mediterranean

Sabrine Wennberg reviews the first in the MSc Criminology Guest Lectures

Paolo Campana was welcomed to the Centre of Criminology for the first Communication Skills for Criminologists session of Trinity term.

Dr Campana is a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and is currently conducting research on the organisation of migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean.

Dr Campana explained during his presentation that there are two major migrant smuggling routes into Europe: the central Mediterranean route and the eastern Mediterranean route. In his research, he is currently focusing on the central Mediterranean route which is the route that migrants take from Libya. Furthermore, there are two main routes from Africa into Libya, and Paolo decided to focus his research on the route from the horn of Africa. The migrant journeys begin in Libya and proceed toward Italy. However, the end destination of the migrants is often countries in northern Europe such as Sweden and Germany. The events he focused on in the lecture took place around 2013, during which time Eritreans were the second largest group of arrivals into Italy.  The overwhelming majority of those involved in smuggling that he focused on were male, in contrast to those subject to human trafficking in Nigeria, a significant proportion of whom were female.

Dr Campana’s research interest focused on the smuggling activities associated with the migrant crossings. His research questions included ‘How are smuggling activities organised?’ and ‘What is the structure of the network underpinning the smuggling activities under scrutiny?’.

After extensive quantitative and qualitative research, Dr Campana determined a few distinguishing features of these particular routes.

It seems that there is no single organization which is responsible for the smuggling, but instead a collection of largely independent actors. Furthermore, he found that localized hierarchies emerged with indications of competition between the market players.

An interesting question raised by one of the Criminology students concerned the presence of violence between the different actors. Dr Campana did not believe that there was any significant violence between the smugglers. This is, he believed, is due to the large demand for their services; there are enough people hoping to cross over into Europe to give all smugglers sufficient work, and therefore there are no reasons to be competitive with other smugglers. This could potentially change in the future, especially if market conditions change.

Dr Campana regrets that he had to use such ‘dry language for what is a real human tragedy’, and spoke about how we should not expect to be able to ‘police our way out of this problem’. If arrested, smugglers are likely to be replaced. Actions, therefore, need be taken before the migrants reach Europe. One possibility is, of course, to deal with the root causes underpinning migration if we want to bring about change. For instance, one could devise alternative routes to smuggling, for instance direct relocation from war-torn zones and working permits. Tackling instability and inequality is a massive task – and one that is also difficult to undertake in the current political climate.

See also 'The Market for Human Smuggling into Europe: A Macro Perspective'