COVID-19 travel and movement restrictions are not stopping the movement of people fleeing conflict, human rights abuses, violence and dangerous living conditions, while the economic consequences of the pandemic are likely to lead to an increase in smuggling of migrants and trafficking in person flows from the most affected countries to more affluent destinations, according to a report launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today.

UNODC’s latest Research Brief analyzes possible scenarios of how cross-border smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to North America and Europe may be affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Across the Mediterranean, Sub Saharan African, North African, Middle Eastern and Asian migrants and refugees are caught between the need to flee conflicts and poverty, dangerous open sea waters, the reduced Search and Rescue operation at Sea and the risk of COVID-19 transmission in absence of basic health and hygiene conditions en route.

The living conditions of migrants and refugees en route and in refugee camps were of great concern for decades before the COVID-19 crisis. The diffusion of the pandemic and its consequences will likely endanger the life of these people even further.

Despite the lockdown in the European countries and the stringent mobility restrictions the smuggling of migrants along the Western and Central Mediterranean smuggling routes continues not least because of the continued conflicts in the region. The flow along the Eastern Mediterranean route decreased, most likely affected by containment measures along the route.

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