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Human smuggling and violence in the east Mediterranean

Theodore Baird (Post-Doc, based at the Department of Migration Law, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 9 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to outline a typology of violent acts used against migrants using human smugglers. This paper relates the experiences of violence, coercion, and exploitation to migrants’ experiences of being smuggled across borders.


Data were collected using participant observation and semi-structured interviews among undocumented migrants and refugees who used human smugglers to enter Turkey and Greece. Fieldwork was conducted in Athens, Greece and Istanbul, Turkey over spring and summer 2011 and 2012.


This paper presents an adapted typology of violence using four categories of coercive violence: threats and pressure, physical force, deception and fraud, and coercion/advantage taking. Movement with human smugglers may involve the violation of consent and forms of exploitation resembling, but not equating to, human trafficking.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are based on a non-probability snowball sample, and are not generalizable. Further research should engage with other methods such as respondent driven sampling to gain more accurate estimates of violent events among smuggled migrants.

Practical implications

Governments must respond appropriately when apprehending or detaining migrants, as many of them have been victimized by violence and may remain vulnerable because of continued threats from human smugglers.


This paper presents a typology of violent acts against migrants using human smugglers, and can be used to develop further research and improve professional practice.



This research was funded with a PhD grant from the Danish Social Sciences Research Council (FSE). Special thanks to Ninna Nyberg Sorensen and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on earlier drafts.


Baird, T. (2014), "Human smuggling and violence in the east Mediterranean", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 121-133.



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