Migrant smuggling workshop, University of Texas in El Paso

The Rio Grande at the El Paso-Juarez US-Mexico border crossing

BOb’s Antje Missbach and Rebecca Powell recently attended and presented at the ‘Smuggling Workshop: Theory and Praxis of Irregular Migration Facilitation’ at the University of Texas in El Paso (UTEP). Hosted by BOb’s Dr Gabriella Sanchez of UTEP in collaboration with the European University Institute and Monash University, the workshop brought together academics, NGOs and IGOs from around the world, to present on their research on people smuggling at various locations and borders including Africa, Europe, South East Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean and US-Mexico borders.

The workshop was held in the aftermath of the US Executive Orders and took place at the US-Mexico border in El Paso in the context of anti-immigrant and xenophobic policies and practices, religious and ethnic bans, alongside increased calls for punitive migration enforcement amid migratory flows. The workshop therefore created a space for active, organised and strategic reflection and research on irregular migration.

Antje and Rebecca both presented findings from their research projects on migrant smuggling in South East Asia. Antje and her colleague Dr Wayne Palmer from Binus University, Jakarta presented on ‘Making exceptions for transporters of smuggling operation: The case of Indonesia’ with a case study focus on an underage fisherman who was recruited as a people smuggler to transport asylum seekers to Australia. Rebecca presented on the findings of two research projects funded by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Collaborative Research Program in partnership with the Australian National University on the vulnerabilities of smuggled migrants in the region traveling to Indonesia (available here) and Malaysia (forthcoming) and the gaps in the regional response to irregular migration in regards to creating safer migration pathways for these migrants.

Border control at the US-Mexico border, El Paso-Juarez.

 The highlight of this workshop came with an excursion across the US-Mexico border on the last day where workshop participants got to cross the border from El Paso into the border town of Juarez, Mexico. On the Mexican side, we met with child people smugglers who shared their stories and experiences of facilitating border crossings to the US.

 Open Democracy have supported the ‘Human Smugglers Roundtable’ online discussion with contributions from those who participated in the workshop to help bust myths and present evidence on the realities and practices of human smuggling from around the world.