DP16173 Migrants at Sea: Unintended Consequences of Search and Rescue Operations
|Author(s):||Claudio Deiana, Vikram Maheshri, Giovanni Mastrobuoni|
|Publication Date:||May 2021|
|Keyword(s):||Africa, Central Mediterranean, International Migration, migrants, rubber boats, sea crossings, search and rescue operations, smugglers, undocumented migration|
|JEL(s):||F22, H12, K37, K42|
|Programme Areas:||Labour Economics, Public Economics|
|Link to this Page:||cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16173|
The Central Mediterranean Sea is the world's most dangerous crossing for irregular migrants. In response to mounting deaths, European nations intensified search and rescue operations in 2013. We develop a model of irregular migration to identify the effects of these operations. Leveraging plausibly exogenous variation from rapidly varying crossing conditions, we find that smugglers responded by sending boats in adverse weather and shifting from seaworthy boats to flimsy rafts. In doing so, these operations induced more crossings, ultimately offsetting their intended safety benefits. A more successful policy should restrict the supply of rafts and expand legal alternatives to irregular migration.