Who Is a Smuggler?

AuthorGabriella Sanchez
ProfessionResearch Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute (EUI), Florence
Gabriella Sanchez
1. Introduction
In the European narrative of migration, the spectre of the migrant
smuggler looms large. As the facilitator of a persons clandestine or
irregular journey into a country or territory other than his or her
own, the smuggler is systematically portrayed as operating in vast
networks of transnational reach, and as driven by the mere desire
of nancial gain. He (for the smuggler has also been gendered as
male) is also portrayed as member of a vast criminal pantheon,
working alongside drug trackers and feared terrorists, whose
goals are to cross the EU’s borders undetected.
But the descriptions do not stop here. e smuggler, we are
told, is inherently heinous, as evidenced by the acts of violence he
perpetrates against gullible and vulnerable migrants. Harrowing
stories of smugglers who scam migrants of their lives’ savings, beat
them to death, sell them to brutal desert tribes or into prostitu-
tion, push them o of boats on the Mediterranean or force them
into freezing lorries, have for years shaped our collective under-
standing of one of the quintessential predators of late modernity.
e frequent reports involving migrant deaths by drowning or suf-
focation further cement the hate and dislike towards smugglers,
who are almost singlehandedly blamed for peoples tragic ends.
e pain and victimization endured by men, women and chil-
dren on the migration pathway must not be denied. ere is in
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