The International Organization for Migration is calling on the international community to assist and protect the thousands of migrants who are abandoned by unscrupulous smugglers every year, and do not have the means to return home. The organization is making the appeal on International Migrants Day.
United Nations estimates more than 150 million migrants live and work in foreign countries. They represent two percent of the world's population.
The U.N. organization says the global economy is increasingly dependent on migrant workers for the skills they provide to host countries and the money they send home to their families.
Yet, the IOM says migrants suffer from discrimination and are open to exploitation. In addition, thousands of migrants fall victim to unscrupulous smugglers.
Jean-Philippe Chauzy is spokesman for the International Organization for Migration. He says migrants from poor countries often are left stranded by smugglers far from their destination.
"They have entrusted their savings and their lives in the hands of smuggling networks who have promised to take them to a rich country of the North, for instance," he explained. "Very often, what happens is, the smuggling networks will ask for additional payments, or in some cases will abandon the migrants, the irregular migrants, in very difficult circumstances in countries of transit. Now, the problem for these stranded migrants is that they have no resources, financial resources most of the time, and they have no documentation."
Recently, hundreds of would-be migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, attempting to cross into Europe, were abandoned by smugglers in the desert between Morocco and Algeria. They were left without money, food or water.
Although the plight of these migrants drew international attention, Mr. Chauzy says, no one hears about the thousands of other stranded migrants in distress.
Mr. Chauzy says poor migrants pay huge sums of money to smuggling networks. For example, he says, migrants from south Asian countries will pay as much as $15,000 to go to a European country. He says migrants from sub-Saharan Africa will pay between $2,000 to $3,000.
"The money does not come from one person. It is usually the family, the kinship, in some cases, even the village that will pool resources and pay that amount of money to the smugglers," he added. "Now, why do these migrants, for instance, find themselves abandoned by the networks, because very often migrants are asked during their journey to pay additional sums of money to the amount of money that has been paid initially. And, they do not have that money."
The International Organization for Migration is calling on governments to enact regular labor migration programs. If migrants can enter a country legally to work for a period of time, it says, they will not have to turn to unscrupulous smugglers.