It is increasingly evident that criminal acts of kidnapping for ransom, including detention by state actors who demand payment before releasing detainees (referred to as “extortionate detention” in this paper), is deeply embedded in the mixed migration phenomenon.
The Mixed Migration Centre’s 4Mi project gathers hundreds of interviews with refugees and migrants on the move every month and has developed extensive data sets across several migratory routes. This data indicates that kidnapping and extortionate detention have become a normalised part of the criminal exploitation of refugees and migrants on the move.
Because extortion and violence frequently accompany what is ostensibly legitimate detention for violations of immigration laws, many refugees and migrants who have been detained see little distinction between the phenomenon and kidnapping for ransom by criminal elements.
This Briefing Paper draws on published research and 4Mi primary data to deliver, in the first section, some general and global observations and case studies. The second part of the paper offers a deeper exploration of experiences from the Horn of Africa, using interviews with and surveys of refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia to illustrate the role of kidnapping and extortionate detention in mixed migration flows along three routes out of the region. These routes were chosen not only because 4Mi has significant data on the nationalities moving along them but also because these nationalities are especially affected by kidnapping and detention and associated violence, trauma and exploitation.
Other issues discussed in this paper include how social media is both a boon and a menace to those on the move; the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators; and how the distinction between migrant smuggling and human trafficking is blurred by these types of crime and exploitation.
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