Human Smuggling and Intentions to Migrate: Global Evidence from a Supply Shock Along Africa-to-Europe Migration Routes
31 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 6, 2017
Africa-to-Europe irregular migration depends heavily on human smuggling services. The demise of the Gaddafi regime in 2011 marked the end of a bilateral agreement between Italy and Libya and opened the Central Mediterranean Route for irregular border crossing. How did this remarkable increase in human smuggling services affect migration intentions in the rest of the region? This paper isolates a causal impact by exploiting the spatial dimension of the smuggling network and its change over time, which produced a heterogeneous decrease in bilateral migration distances between countries in Africa and Europe. We use this source of variation and a novel dataset of bilateral distances along irregular land and sea routes, combined with cross-country survey data on individual intentions to move from Africa to Europe between 2010 and 2012. Netting out pair- and country-by-time-specific fixed effects, we find a large negative effect of distance along smuggling routes on individual migration intentions. Shorter distances increase the willingness to migrate especially for youth, (medium) skilled individuals and those with a network abroad. The effect is stronger in origin countries not too far from Libya and with weak rule of law.
Keywords: International Migration, Human Smuggling, Illegal Migration, Libyan Civil War
JEL Classification: K23, K42
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