The flourishing business of people-smuggling

by gabrielleL on February 21, 2017 - 4:22pm

In the hope of a better life, thousands of people leave their country every day. The migrant crisis is a worldwide problem that keeps growing. In this climate of fear and incertitude, people-smuggling, which is defined as “the illegal business of transporting people to a country which they are not authorized to enter as immigrants”, is flourishing. As it can be seen in many countries, such as Mexico and Europe, the business of people-smuggling is growing, creating a new problematic for governments.

Since Trump’s announced his intention of building a wall between the United States and Mexico, many people have expressed their concerns. The Mexican journal La Jornada took an interesting approach at this issue, when they posted an interview with a Mexican Smuggler on February 8. Illegal immigration from Mexico has also been an issue in the United States. According to Alejandro, an experienced smuggler, contrary to the popular belief, the construction of the wall will not prohibit people from crossing the border, it will only make it more lucrative for him. Because of the added difficulties smugglers will have to overcome, the prizes will be increased.

The people-smuggling business is also problematic in Europe, since thousands of refugees embark on boats every week in the hope to find better condition of life. However since the embarkation are not safe and are overloaded, many will drown before reaching the coasts. As it has been outlined by Zoie O’Brien in her article in the journal Express posted on February 15, 2017, the mission organized by the Europeans to rescue the migrants are helping the people-smuggler to make money. Because people are expecting to be rescued, less money is spent to make sure that the embarkations are safe and without danger. People-smuggler are also using this to boost their business. For them, since people are going to be taken care of by the rescuers, they don’t have to invest as much in the boats or lifeguard jackets. In short, the rescue mission organized by the Europeans are seen as business opportunity, since people-smuggler are decreasing the cost of their operations and increasing their profit, without any regards to people’s safety.     

In the last couple of months, Quebec too has found itself with a people-smuggling problem. In a recent article by cbcnews posted on February 14, 2017, Elysha Enos found that the number of people crossing illegally the border between the U.S. and Quebec has increased from 230% since last year. According to her, this increase is mainly due to the Muslim Ban imposed by Trump. Since immigrants’ faith in the United States is unknown for the moment, many decide to leave the country. Taking advantage of that desire, a people-smuggling business has been created in the last year between Quebec and the United States. However, since Quebec is a very cold country, many problems emerged. People-smuggler charge thousands of dollar to immigrants, but do not furnish coat or winter clothes to their “clients”. People often arrive at the Canadian border with severe frostbit, and in the most severe cases, fingers have to be cut. The conditions in which people are crossing the border are inhuman.

As it can be seen, people-smuggling is an important issue worldwide. For the moment, governments have not found a solution to end the problem, since even rescue mission are helping this illegal business to grow. However, one thing is sure, as long as immigration will exist there will always be people-smuggler to make profit out of the migrants’ desire to have a better life.


I’m really glad that your article is tackling a current issue we are faced with today especially because it hits so close to home. I was not aware that this was actually a business smugglers made money out of before reading your article!

I believe you’re looking at this issue of people-smuggling from a deontological perspective, which is an ethical position that is measured through universal rules that determine whether or not your actions are moral. As you have mentioned, you believe that people-smuggling is wrong because people are being smuggled into countries illegally which is cheating with the government but also increasing human trafficking.

However, I believe utilitarianism has a better approach to this issue because this ethical framework argues that if the situation is creating happiness by doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people it is morally acceptable. In this case, many are fleeing countries where they would not necessarily have a future in and are trying to seek a better life. Rescue teams are putting in the effort to give them this chance of a fresh new start. All of these people are motivated by good intentions.

Yes, these people do have to go through a difficult and costly journey in order to find a new life, but perhaps they would not have to seek the aid of smugglers if only the governments had a more lenient law on immigration. Maybe then the people-smuggling business would decrease since people would no longer have to rely on the smugglers.

This is a very informative and profound article; you shed light on an incredibly pressing issue and an entirely new dimension of illegal immigration that I wasn’t previously aware of!

The people-smuggling business is an undoubtedly complicated dilemma as these ‘businesses’ consciously endanger the people whom they serve and also illegally profit from such abusive actions. As you point out, there is no clear-cut solution to this matter, however, an ethical interpretation of this issue can provide further insights on how to proceed.

From a Deontological perspective, both the actions of people smugglers and illegal immigrants themselves would be considered unethical. Deontology defines ethical behaviour as the observance of universal principles that one is duty-bound to follow. In this case, collecting profit through inflicting harm would be viewed as using humans as means to an end, and illegitimately crossing borders would be considered unprincipled. Thus, Deontology would propose measures to obstruct the subversion of these maxims, such as stricter orders against illegal immigration.

According to Utilitarianism, ethical actions comprise what will yield the most beneficial outcomes to the greatest number of people. To that effect, Utilitarians would assert the immorality of the human-smugglers due to the negative implications of mistreating others (and the reinforcement of these actions through profit). As you mentioned, there is a chance that harsher immigration laws may backfire and ultimately worsen the problem, rendering this option void by Utilitarians. This framework may therefore suggest lighter immigration laws, serving the benefit of those in search of a better life without being brutalized in the process.

I believe a Utilitarianist approach would be the best way to tackle this situation. While stricter immigration procedures may seem intuitively correct, the potential risk of these actions further enabling such unethical practices both outweigh the benefits and undermine the principle.