Schengen’s Soft Underbelly? Irregular Migration and Human Smuggling across Land and Sea Borders to Italy

Irregular migration to or across Italy is usually associated with the idea of

hundreds, sometimes thousands, of migrants crossing the Mediterranean

crammed in long-worn ships barely staying afloat. Such journeys are often

taken as evidence of the existence of hierarchically integrated, centralized,

sophisticated, worldwide active, criminal cartels. The only problem with

such received wisdoms is the fact that it is radically at odd with the available

evidence, as it has little to do with the empirical reality of irregular

migratory systems. This paper reviews a number of Italian Court files concerning

a variety of organizations operating across both land and sea borders.

It is shown how such organizations operate within a variety of local

specificities and structural constraints.

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