Friday, April 24, 2015

Multi-Million Dollar Smuggling Trade Fuels Deadly Migration Across Mediterranean

Brazen, multi-million-dollar people-smuggling enterprise run by Libyan militias and tribesmen proves hard to combat
The deaths of more than 1,000 Italy-bound migrants in the Mediterranean Sea in the last week are the product of a multi-million-dollar people-smuggling enterprise run by Libyan militias, tribesmen and bandits, law-enforcement officials and migrant-aid groups say.
( A child is carried by a rescue worker as migrants arrive on a boat at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo on Sunday. Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters )
Authorities in the European Union on Monday pledged to step up efforts to crack down on a well-oiled and increasingly brazen business of putting desperate people on rickety boats and setting them afloat on the deadliest migrant route in the world. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni called for international support “to fight against these traffickers of human beings, this new slavery of the 21st century.”
But the economic collapse of Libya and the race by militias and tribes to find sources of money to fuel conflict there greatly complicates any effort from European authorities to make meaningful headway in stanching the trade, say officials in both Libya and Europe, even as Italian authorities announced the detention of the captain and a crew member of the ship that sank on the weekend, causing as many as 700 deaths.
Various armed groups in Libya are aggressively advertising their services to would-be migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Syrians fleeing conflict in their country, presenting the collapse of order in Libya as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure safe passage to Europe, says Arezo Malakooti, the director of migration research for Paris-based Altai Consulting, a consultancy that works with the International Organization for Migration and other migration-related groups.
“The profits from human trafficking have consolidated a new balance of power in the Sahel and Libya,” says Tuesday Reitano, head of the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
The Saharan Tebu tribe, for instance, is now making “a killing,” according to Ms. Reitano, who estimates the tribe pockets some $60,000 a week by charging West African migrants for a seat on four-wheel-drive cars that take them to Agadez, a major city in Niger. From there, they ferry the migrants to the central Libyan city of Sabha and then proceed to northern Libya ahead of their sea journey to Italy and Malta.
The profits are such that tribes normally at war cooperate at times in getting migrants from one place to the next.
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