Players of Many Parts: The Evolving Role of Smugglers in West Africa’s Migration Economy

Komadougou river, border between Niger and Nigeria. (Photo: EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie)

Based on interviews with over 100 smugglers and 3,000 migrants, patterns of migrant smuggling in Mali and Niger emerge. In Niger, prior to the 2015 anti-smuggling law, smuggling networks were easy to join and fluidly linked, not always adhering to a fixed, hierarchical mode of criminal operations. Since then however, more professionalized criminal networks have consolidated market control. Most migrants reported initiating their travel without the encouragement of smugglers, but subsequently used smuggler facilitation services.

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