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Symposium #8

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Migration flows around the world occupy a significant portion of the daily news. There is an overabundance of reports of migrants being rescued in the Mediterranean or along the US - Mexico border, of their exploitation at the hands of smugglers in their journeys across the Sahara, Arizona o South Texas, and of the overall role organized crime plays in the smuggling market. Most coverage, while visually graphic and effective at communicating the tragic side of migration, often lacks depth. The aim of this homeland security symposium series event is to provide United States homeland security enterprise practitioners and policymakers a global view of migrant smuggling with the opportunity to get an insight into the “lessons learned” from other international locations.

In this symposium, a panel of international researchers whose work focuses specifically on the operation of smuggling groups will answer questions fundamental to understanding these groups’ organization, scope and reach. Presentations on the increased sophistication of smuggling groups, their metamorphosis and growth; the role of organized crime, religion and conflict; the importance of social media and technology in the smuggling market, and the development of interactions among migrants and smuggling groups across vast distances will provide attendees with unprecedented insights into smuggling operations and their dynamics.


Dr. Gabriella Sanchez  - The University of Texas at El Paso 


Gabriella Sanchez is an assistant professor and associate director for research at the National Security Studies Institute at the University of Texas at El Paso. A socio-cultural anthropologist, she holds a PhD from the School of Social Inquiry at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Her work explores the social organization of transnational organized crime with a focus on people smuggling groups and their interactions with other illicit and/or criminal markets in a comparative, global fashion. She has conducted research on the US Mexico Border, Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East and Australia living among smuggling facilitators and their clients. She is the author of “Human Smuggling and Border Crossings” (Routledge, 2015). Currently she is part of a binational team documenting the experiences of youth and children in drug and migrant smuggling markets along the US Mexico border.

Download the powerpoint HERE.


Dr. Luigi Achilli  - European University Institute


Luigi Achilli is a research associate at the Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the UK. His work explores socio-political and cultural transformations in the Middle East. He conducts research on irregular migration and smuggling networks and refugees and refugee camps. He is currently researching the use of social media and technology among Middle Eastern migrants traveling into Europe. In 2017-2018 he will be researching the dynamics of smuggling networks along the US Mexico Border under a European Union funded fellowship. He is the co-editor along with Gabriella Sanchez and Sheldon Zhang of an upcoming issue from the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on Migrant Journeys and Smuggling Networks.

Download the powerpoint HERE.


Dr. Sine Plambech  - Danish Institute for International Studies


Sine Plambech is a social anthropologist and filmmaker. Currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the Danish Institute for International Studies in Denmark, she was previously a research fellow at Columbia University in New York. She has professional experience in international migration, human trafficking, sex work research, socio-cultural and gender analysis. She has worked as researcher, lecturer and consultant at various institutes of higher learning, an UN agency and other public institutions in Denmark and abroad. She conducts fieldwork in Nigeria on the topic of irregular migration, trafficking, smuggling and deportation of Nigerian sex workers from the EU. She is the creator of four award-winning feature documentaries and short films on the topics of international migration, sex work and human trafficking in Africa and Thailand.

Dr. Antje Missbach
- Monash University


Antje Missbach is a senior research fellow at the Department of Anthropology and an associate of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, both housed at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a PhD from the Australian National University on the politics of the Acehnese diaspora. Her current research interests include transit migration, piracy and maritime security in Southeast Asia, the exploitation and resilience of unaccompanied minor migrants, and people-smuggling and border and mobility studies. Since 2013, she has carried out research on people-smuggling networks in Indonesia funded by the Australian Research Council.

Download the powerpoint HERE.


Mr. Peter Tinti
- Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (Research Fellow)

Peter Tinti

Peter Tinti is an independent American investigative journalist and a senior research fellow at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime in Geneva, Switzerland. He has over 8 years of experience conducting in-depth research on conflict, human rights, and organized crime and managing projects with a particular emphasis on Africa. He is among the top 100 most influential journalists covering armed violence according to Action on Armed Violence, an organization researching armed violence. He has written for Vice, Politico, Foreign Affairs, and is the author of “Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Savior,” co-written alongside Tuesday Reitano.

Download the powerpoint HERE.



Research in Brief
After-Action Report

Watch the Symposium Webcast
Welcome and "Human Smuggling and Syrian Refugees’ Trajectories..." by Dr. Luigi Achilli
"The Changing Political Economies of Migrant Smuggling..." by Mr. Peter Tinti
"The Everyday Interactions Between Migrants and Smugglers..." by Dr. Sine Plambech
"The Identification and Prosecution of Migrant Smugglers..." by Dr. Antje Missbach
"Boys, Girls, and Teens in the Migrant Smuggling Market..." by Dr. Gabriella Sanchez


Connect With Us

The Center for Law and Human Behavior
Prospect Hall, Room 208
The University of Texas at El Paso
500 W. University Avenue
El Paso, TX 79968-0553
(915) 747-5920