Migration at Sea: Unintended Consequences of Search and Rescue Operations

58 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2019 Last revised: 16 Dec 2019

See all articles by Claudio Deiana

Claudio Deiana

University of Cagliari - Department of Economics; University of Essex - Department of Economics

Vikram Maheshri

University of Houston

Giovanni Mastrobuoni

University of Turin - Collegio Carlo Alberto; University of Essex - Department of Economics; IZA

Date Written: November 30, 2019

Abstract

The Central Mediterranean Sea is the most dangerous crossing for irregular migrants in the world. At any point in time, over half a million potential migrants wait in Libya to travel to Italy with the aid of human smugglers. In response to high profile shipwrecks and mounting deaths, European nations intensified search and rescue operations beginning in 2013. We develop a model of irregular migration in order to identify the effects of these operations on activity along this smuggling route. Leveraging plausibly exogenous variation from rapidly varying weather and sea conditions, we find that smugglers responded to these operations by shifting from seaworthy wooden boats to flimsy inflatable rafts. In doing so, these operations induced more crossings and had the ultimate effect of entirely offsetting the intended safety benefits of search and rescue operations, which were captured at least in part by smugglers.

Keywords: Central Mediterranean sea crossings, international, undocumented, irregular migration, search and rescue operations, rubber boats, deaths

JEL Classification: F22, H12

Suggested Citation

Deiana, Claudio and Maheshri, Vikram and Mastrobuoni, Giovanni, Migration at Sea: Unintended Consequences of Search and Rescue Operations (November 30, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3454537 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3454537

Claudio Deiana

University of Cagliari - Department of Economics ( email )

Cagliari, 09124
Italy

University of Essex - Department of Economics ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Vikram Maheshri

University of Houston ( email )

Houston, TX 77204
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/vmaheshri

Giovanni Mastrobuoni (Contact Author)

University of Turin - Collegio Carlo Alberto ( email )

Piazza Arbarello 8
Torino, Torino 10122
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.carloalberto.org/people/faculty/assistant-professors-and-chairs/mastrobuoni/

University of Essex - Department of Economics ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

IZA ( email )

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