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What is People Smuggling?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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People smuggling is one of the crimes that deals with the illegal movement of individuals. It generally involves illegal services where people help others to unlawfully cross international borders. In these instances, the people who arrange the transport and those who are transported are guilty of criminal acts. These acts usually occur when people from poor countries want to enter richer countries or when people are fleeing problems such as war or poverty.

To understand people smuggling, it is essential to understand the difference between this crime and human trafficking. The thing the two crimes have in common is that people are often transported in a covert manner. Otherwise, the crimes are separated by the consent of the individuals involved. Human trafficking generally involves people being moved against their will, under duress, or under false pretenses.

People smuggling involves people who become the clients of illegal services. When people are smuggled, they are aware that they will be moved to another country. In most instances, the people who are transported pay for such services. They are also generally aware that the manner in which they will cross international borders is illegal.

One of the reasons people smuggling is illegal is because it violates immigration law. When people are smuggled, they may not have identifying documents that are required when traveling to foreign countries. They also are not likely to have obtained or paid the proper authorities for visas that permit transit through or residence in another country.

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Since the people who are transported are aware they are circumventing the law, if they are caught, they may be charged with crimes. If the people who offer or execute such services are caught, they may also be charged with crimes. Although these individuals may be caught or arrested by local authorities, the crimes they have committed are generally federal crimes. People who are guilty of people smuggling or being smuggled may be incarcerated in the lands where they are caught. After serving their sentences, they are likely to be returned to their homelands.

There are numerous challenges in handling people smuggling. Preventing the problem is often difficult, since many borders are porous and people can cross at many unmonitored points. There are also numerous ways that people attempt this type of smuggling. These include hiding individuals in shipping containers that are carrying other goods and placing people in secret compartments of vehicles that are allowed to cross borders.

Deterring those who may consider being smuggled can be difficult because many of these individuals may feel that they have nothing to lose. Many attempt to enter foreign countries in this manner many times. Sometimes when they are caught, authorities have difficulties returning them because they are not carrying any documentation to disclose where they are from.

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