Towards A Stylized Model of Dynamics on the Market for Smuggling Services


Written by Gerard van der Meijden, Orçun Ulusoy, Erik Verhoef, Thomas Spijkerboer (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) / December 2023

In 2015-2016, Europe witnessed a sharp increase and subsequent decrease (a ‘spike’) of migrants and refugees on the so-called ‘Balkan-route’ from Turkey, via Greece and the Balkan countries, to the other EU Member States. The spike has led to considerable administrative and political challenges and revealed a systemic refugee protection crisis within the EU (Den Heijer, Rijpma & Spijkerboer 2016; Byrne, Noll, & Vedsted-Hansen, 2020). Therefore, it is important for policy makers to understand the processes leading to the beginning and end of the spike. This will allow them to assess the impact of policy interventions and possibly to prevent or reduce future spikes. It will also give insight into policy interventions which inadvertently may contribute to spikes.

Within the ASILE context, this research contributes to developing future asylum policies by focusing on a central element of the EU’s containment policies. A core assumption of these policies is that intensifying border control will reduce the number of migrants who succeed in reaching European territory. However, the recurrent ‘spikes’ in migrants reaching Europe by sea suggest that these policies have unintended effects, due to incompletely understood and acknowledged processes and mechanisms behind the occurrence of spikes. We investigate the idea that a stylized micro-economic model of the market for smuggling services may contribute to a more complete understanding of the ‘spikes’. This contributes to developing more effective policy responses to the presence of migrants in need of international protection at European borders.