Illegal migrant smuggling by sea is often the only option for economically disadvantaged people. While the trend in the total number of deaths of smuggled migrants by sea is not known researchers believe it to be increasing.  Distance from the world’s major population centres has an influence on the scale of illegal migrant smuggling in Canada. In this Canadian Naval Review – Volume 9, Number 2 (2013) – article Darryl Anderson, Managing Director Wave Point Consulting explores Canada’s experience with illegal migrant smuggling by sea.

Canada’s Experience With Illegal Migrant Smuggling by Sea

Based on the available evidence, Canada may indeed experience periodic episodes of large-scale irregular migrants, but it does not appear to face a tsunami of illegal migrants arriving by ship: from 1999 to 2010 there was a total of only 1,117 refugee claimants smuggled by sea to BC. The scale of the navy’s recent training scenario suggests that at least on the Atlantic Coast government officials are not planning for a major incident o irregular migrants at sea, or to provide practical guidance to support ship masters to fulfill their obligations when faced with such a difficult situation.

In addition to their constabulary role, maritime forces also make a significant to Canada’s foreign policy objectives. This raises an important question of whether the Navy should be used to turn back migrant vessels in Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone, or become involved in surveillance and deterrence efforts in regions of the world far from Canadian waters, and where international cooperation is indeed needed to combat the problem effectively.