Half of Migrants Arrived to Spain in 2018 Reported Direct Experience With Human Trafficking, Exploitation or Abuse During Western Mediterranean Route

Madrid, 12 March 2019 (IOM)* —  According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) flow monitoring survey of over 1,300 migrants and refugees in Spain last year, nearly half (48%) of those interviewed indicated having at least one direct experience related to human trafficking, exploitation or abuse while traveling on the Western Mediterranean Route. 


IOM staff speaking with a migrant at a humanitarian assistance reception centre in Miraflores de la Sierra, Spain. Photo: IOM

Men – who outnumber women nine to one among those surveyed – reported a higher percentage (49%) of incidents than women (40%).

The survey findings are based on 1,341 interviews with migrants and refugees from 39 countries of origin who arrived in Spain in 2018.

The surveys were conducted between July and October 2018 in transit and reception centres in more than 40 Spanish municipalities across four autonomous regions to shed more light on the profile and experiences of those who arrived in the country by sea and by land via the Western Mediterranean route.

That route, in 2018, emerged as the most frequented route to Europe in 2018 with 63,325 arrivals to Spain.

“The results of this survey show an alarming incidence of reported exploitation and abuse of migrants and refugees along the route. It is striking how varied their motivations and experiences are, and we do not always realize the very high levels of vulnerability in play,” said Maria Jesus Herrera, IOM Chief of Mission in Spain.

The main countries of origin of the 1,341 survey respondents were Guinea (29%), Mali (19%), Côte d’Ivoire (14%), Cameroon (6%), Senegal (6%), Morocco (5%) and Algeria (4%). These nationalities are also among the top 10 nationals registered in official 2018 statistics. French was reported as a first language spoken by 23 per cent of those interviewed.

The Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) report also shows little evidence of a significant “route shift” or diversion between the Central Mediterranean Route and the Western Mediterranean Route in 2018.

Among the migrants surveyed, only 1.3 per cent indicated that they had changed their route and headed towards Niger or Algeria after time spent in Libya.  All respondents had transited through either Morocco or Algeria before reaching Spain.

The survey shows that migrants and refugees from Cameroon, the Gambia and Guinea reported the highest share of positive responses (67%, 63% and 62% respectively) to at least one of the five questions related to direct experience of human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Migrants from Morocco (6%), Algeria (13%) and Mauritania (24%) had the lowest share.

Longer periods of time spent in transit were associated with higher incidence of trafficking, exploitation and abuse due a more complex journey involving more transit through more countries.

The lowest share of positive responses was registered among those with journeys shorter than one month, originating from Morocco and Algeria directly or reaching Morocco via direct flights from their origin countries. Furthermore, respondents who travelled alone had the highest share of positive responses (49%) to at least one of the five indicators.

Morocco and Algeria, as the two final transit countries with the highest flows, emerged together with Libya and Mali as the countries on the route where the highest percentage of exploitative or abusive events were reported according to the migrants surveyed. Fewer events were reported in Mauritania, Niger and other countries.

Around 38 per cent of those surveyed had spent more than one year in transit, while less than a quarter reported traveling for three months or less.

The most common route – reported by almost one third of the sample – is through Mali (Bamako) to Algeria (Algiers, Oran, Tamanrasset) and then to Morocco (Casablanca or Rabat and then Nador or Tangier).

Almost half of those surveyed said that they had financial problems and reported being robbed at least once (46% each) during their journey. Nineteen per cent of those questioned reported health problems.

The DTM survey also captures the general demographic profile of the interviewed migrants and refugees (of which 89% were men and 11% women, which corresponds to the available data on total arrivals in 2018, where the overall gender breakdown was 88% men, 12% women) including the motivations and expectations of those arriving by sea or land to Spain.

Most of those interviewed reported leaving their countries of origin and habitual residence for a combination of factors including economic reasons, personal violence, war and conflict.

Almost half of the respondents (47%) reported having been unemployed at the time of departure from the country of origin or habitual residence. Among respondents in Spain who were either employed or self-employed at the time of departure, men most frequently mentioned working in skilled manual occupations, selling activities, craft and clerical work.

Interestingly, 10 per cent of the males and five per cent of the females surveyed said they had held managerial or professional occupations such as doctors, nurses and engineers etc. before departure.

Survey results showed that the reasons migrants and refugees left their country or habitual place of residence were mixed and multiple, and that motivations can change over time and during the journey.

Overall, 41 per cent of the sample listed economic reasons as the first reason for leaving, followed by personal violence (32%) and war or conflict (15%).

Male and female respondents differ in their main motivation to migrate. Among males, most frequently mentioned reasons for leaving are economic (44%) and personal violence (29%), while for more than a half of all females, the first reason for leaving is escaping from personal violence (58%) while only 23 per cent of them mentioned economic reasons.

“The findings reinforce our view that much more can be done to provide specialized assistance, protection and care all along the route,” said Herrera. “Ultimately, much of the abuse and suffering could be avoided by strengthening safe channels for regular migration,” she added.

The full survey can be downloaded here

The survey focused on personal (direct) and observed (indirect) experiences that may indicate human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Direct experience of these included being held against one’s will, being forced to work or having worked without getting the expected payment, being approached by someone with offers of an arranged marriage and having suffered physical violence.

The survey also captured indirect experiences such as having observed someone else during the journey being threatened with sexual violence, being offered cash in exchange for or being forced to give blood, organs or other body parts.

The study was made possible with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID)/UK AID

The Flow Monitoring Surveys (FMS) are part of IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) activities in the Mediterranean and conducted within the framework of IOM’s research on populations on the move through the Mediterranean and Western Balkan Routes to Europe.

Collected surveys are regularly analysed providing information on profiles, transit routes and vulnerabilities.

All analyses and latest statistical information on arrivals to Europe from national authorities and IOM country offices can be accessed via DTM’s Flow Monitoring Europe Geoportal. 


2019 Human Wrongs Watch

One Comment to “Half of Migrants Arrived to Spain in 2018 Reported Direct Experience With Human Trafficking, Exploitation or Abuse During Western Mediterranean Route”

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