Discours du Guide Mouammar El Gadafi lors de la Conférence ministérielle Union Africaine-Union européenne au sujet de la migration et du développement (22.11.2006)
El Gathafi parle Française – Bienvenu Sur Le Site Officiel De Mohammar El-Gathafi
Au nom de Dieu,
Je vous souhaite la bienvenue en Libye, tout comme je salue cette présence internationale au niveau de l’Union africaine et de l’Union européenne sur le continent africain. Elle démontre, si besoin est, non seulement le sens de responsabilité vis-à-vis des citoyens de ces deux unions de la part des gouvernements et des différents acteurs concernant le thème de la migration et du développement, mais également une prise de conscience de l’ampleur de ce phénomène qui s’est imposé dans une mesure telle que toutes les parties concernées, antagonistes ou non, doivent y réfléchir ensemble en vue d’y remédier.
Je ne voudrais pas être long, tout comme je ne souhaite pas répéter vos propos prononcés aujourd’hui ni les réflexions faites concernant ce phénomène dans d’autres lieux. Il va sans dire que le phénomène de la migration a été amplement étudié. Pour ma part, je me contenterai de mettre l’accent sur quelques invariables liées à l’homme et à la nature. Celui qui agit contre la nature va à contre courant. Il finira un jour par essuyer un revers. Pourtant cette tendance est celle qui prévaut de nos jours par rapport à de nombreuses questions internationales, et qui explique l’échec de la plupart des mesures politiques, économiques, sociales et sécuritaires.
La nature fait de La Terre la propriété de tous. Dieu créa la Terre pour tous les êtres humains. Il leur dit de la sillonner, cela vaut du moins pour ceux d’entre nous qui connaissent le Coran. Croire ou non au Coran est une question que je laisse ici de côté. Dieu, disais-je, en invitant l’homme à parcourir la Terre admet son appartenance à tous les êtres humains qui peuvent s’y déplacer pour vivre. Il importe de réfléchir et d’accepter cette vérité, à savoir que la Terre nous appartient tous. Que de nos jours des frontières politiques, existent, des visas etc., n’est autre qu’une simple innovation de l’homme, non de la nature. Comme vous pouvez le constatez, ces innovations sont à l’origine des guerres entre les Etats sur les frontières. Très souvent, pour une parcelle de terre, des centaines, voire des milliers de personnes perdent leur vie dans une guerre entre deux pays. La question qui vous préoccupe dans ce débat, à savoir le mouvement des populations, est en partie due à la création des frontières, des visas, et des identités.
Il est naturel que l’être humain se déplace à la recherche..
Mu’Ammar al-Qathafi and Berlusconi: the making of the ‘Corcordance between Libya and Italy’, 30 AUGUST 2010
01 September 2010:
Libyan leader Colonel al-Qathafi and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at a conference in Italy this week, where al-Qathafi said the bill for sealing the crossing routes for illegal immigrants from Libya to Europe would be €5bn a year. Photograph: Olycom SPA / Rex Features Olycom SPA / Rex Features/Olycom SPA / Rex Features
وثائقي تجارة الهجرة الغير شرعية في ليبيا – Documentary: trade of illegal immigration in Libya
Ian Traynor in Brussels
Wednesday 1 September 2010 17.58 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 20 May 201402.31 BST
The European Union is keen to strike a pact with Muammar al-Qathafi to stem the flow of immigrants across the Mediterranean, officials said today, after the Libyan leader put a price tag of €5bn (5.69€bn) a year on the deal.
“There is great scope to develop cooperation with Libya on migration,” said Matthew Newman, a commission spokesman. Other officials said three negotiating sessions were expected by the end of the year between Brussels and Tripoli as well as the staging of a summit of EU and African leaders in Libya in November.
In a highly theatrical visit to Italy this week, al-Qathafi warned that Europe would turn “black” unless it was more rigorous in turning back immigrants. Libya is a key transit point for illegal migration from Africa to Europe. The Libyan leader said the bill for sealing the crossing routes would be at least €5bn a year.
While the commission in Brussels said that much could be achieved with Libya “for lesser amounts than that named by Colonel al-Qathafi“, Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, supported the Libyan leader. He said European government chiefs would discuss the proposed migration pact at the Tripoli summit.
Frattini went to Libya today to chair a meeting of Mediterranean-rim countries, five from the EU and five in the Maghreb.
“al-Qathafi was making an argument all the other Arab leaders in north Africa have made, which is that they don’t want to be the gendarmes of Europe,” Frattini said. “The issue of the 5 billion [euros] has not been looked at up to now. We will look at it in European meetings and I imagine it will be considered at a European-African summit in Libya in November.”
Libya is already taking part in three “pilot projects” set up by the EU and Italy on migration, and Tripoli has received almost €20m in EU funding, the European commission said.
While in Rome, al-Qathafi advised Europeans to convert to Islam and sought to bolster his claim for billions from Europe by warning that millions of Africans were seeking to migrate to the EU.
“We don’t know what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans,” the Libyan leader told a Rome meeting attended by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister. “We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.”
Relations between Berlusconi and al-Qathafi are strong, based on booming business ties and repression of immigrants. Under a much-criticised deal struck two years ago, Italian border patrols in the Mediterranean are turning back thousands of migrants at sea. They are returned to Libya without being screened for legitimate political asylum cases.
“Europe needs to finally get a migration policy, giving plenty of funds to the migrants’ countries of origin and helping transit countries facing a huge burden,” Frattini said.
The Rome-Tripoli accord has decreased the numbers of illegal migrants coming into the EU. According to one set of EU figures, the number of illegal immigrants last year fell by more than three quarters to 7,300.
But a confidential internal security report from EU police and border agencies, leaked to the Statewatch whistleblower this week, said 900,000 illegal immigrants were entering the EU every year.
“The risk of illegal migration by north, east and west African nationals to the EU remains high,” said the report. “Libya remains a focal point despite recent success in disrupting entry into the EU by this route.”
Before Barack Hussein Obama came to power, Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qathafi was aggressively blocking the tidal wave of mostly Muslim illegal aliens heading for Europe from sub-Saharan Africa and repatriating them back to Africa.
When Barack Obama started bombing Libya and arming al-Qaeda backed WAHHABI-millitanta, al-Qathafi propheticly warned, “if I go down, Europe goes black.”Now, without The Great Jamahiriya fighting to stop of the flow of illegals, the greatest tidal wave of illegal aliens of all time is at Europe’s door. Obama’s actions in Egypt and Syria have also crippled border enforcement in other places, sending illegal aliens streaming into Israel, Bulgaria, and Greece.
It is being called a “biblical exodus” and is directly related to the toppling of the Great Jamahiriya, and their bannishing of al-Qathafi. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are directly involved in creating this situation. Libya is still stopping some illegal immigrants, but just a tiny fraction of what was stopped under the Great Jamahiriya.
Think Africa Press According to one news report, “In 2011, Moussa Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Great Jamahiriya, suggested that increased illegal immigration was the price European nations would pay for their military and political support of the CIA-led Wahhabi-‘rebels’ trying to murder ‘Libya’s Leader of the Revolution’.”
Europe’s reliance on Libyan complicity in holding back asylum seekers became particularly clear in the final days of the Great Jamahiriya, when al-Qathafi warned, that if he was deposed from the recognised public-view,
“thousands of people from Libya will invade Europe and there will be no one to stop them.”
In fact, al-Qathafi warning began taking effect when, in May 2011, Libyan authorities were no longer capable of stopping non-Libyan citizens from entering on boats sailing north to Europe.
From Italy to Spain to the UK and the rest of the EU, the ever-rising flood of mainly young male illegal aliens from Africa is proving al-Qathafi’s prediction to be spot on.
OFFSHORE MEDITERANNEAN ILLEGAL-IMMIGRATION
Will US-NATO Unleash A New War in Libya?
Europe is considering plans to intervene in Libya again. On 13 May 2015, the Guardian published an article* devoted to a European plan for a military campaign to smash the migrant smuggling networks operating out of Libya. The scenario envisagesthe use of ground forces.
A landing craft transports migrants back to HMS Bulwark after their rescue in the Mediterranean Sea. Photograph: Jason Florio/AFP/Getty Images
European plans for a military campaign to smash the migrant smuggling networks operating out of Libyainclude options for ground forces on Libyan territory.
The 19-page strategy paper for the mission, obtained by the Guardian, focuses on an air and naval campaign in the Mediterranean and in Libyan territorial waters, subject to United Nations blessing. But it adds that ground operations in Libya may also be needed to destroy the smugglers’ vessels and assets, such as fuel dumps.
“A presence ashore might be envisaged if agreement was reached with relevant authorities,” says the paper. “The operation would require a broad range of air, maritime and land capabilities. These could include: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; boarding teams; patrol units (air and maritime); amphibious assets; destruction air, land and sea, including special forces units.”
Senior diplomats and officials in Brussels, speaking privately about the military planning, have consistently stressed that there would be no prospect of “boots on the ground” in Libya. Responding to the Guardian’s disclosures, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s chief foreign and security policy coordinator, reiterated that position on Wednesday.
“We are not planning in any possible way a military intervention in Libya,” she said.
But EU governments have still to discuss and decide on the planning document. A joint session of EU foreign and defence ministers is to decide on the mission on Monday, followed the next day by a meeting of defence chiefs from EU countries. The military package would then need to be given a green light by heads of government at an EU summit next month.
Mogherini said she expected Monday’s meeting to decide on the headquarters and command and control of the proposed mission. She sounded optimistic about a quick UN security council resolution allowing the use of force against the smugglers, but also made plain that if that proved impossible, the EU would still mount a military mission in the Mediterranean outside of Libyan territorial waters and airspace.
The document being discussed makes it clear that land operations in Libya might be needed and have not been ruled out.
They could include “action along the coast, in harbour or at anchor [against] smugglers’ assets and vessels before their use”.
The paper also speaks of “presence or tasks in the Libyan territory” and warns of “militia and terrorist” threats to the EU forces.
“The existence of heavy military armaments (including coastal artillery batteries) and military-capable militias present a robust threat to EU ships and aircraft operating in the vicinity,” the document states. “The terrorist presence in the region also constitutes a security threat. Action taken ashore could be undertaken in a hostile environment.”
EU leaders ordered Mogherini to come up with proposals for military action to attack the networks three weeks ago. This week Mogherini was in New York lobbying the UN security council for support and for an authorising resolution on the use of force. The resolution is being drafted by the British in New York. Mogherini went to China last week and believes Beijing will not veto the plans in the security council. Russia is the biggest problem; it says it is willing to cooperate but may object to some of the more robust language.
The campaign’s aim is defined as “to disrupt the business model of the smugglers, achieved by undertaking systematic efforts to identify, seize/capture, and destroy vessels and assets before they are used by smugglers … The operation will need to be phased in and will be heavily dependent on intelligence.
“The mission is therefore defined to be ‘to provide surveillance, intelligence gathering and sharing, and assessment of smuggling activity towards and through the southern central Mediterranean area, and to stop, board, search and dispose of, possibly through their destruction, trafficking vessels and assets before use and thereby contribute to EU efforts to disrupt the business model of trafficking networks.”
The document speaks of possible operations to destroy traffickers’ assets “ashore”.
Mogherini appeared to refute the suggestions in the strategy document of “action taken ashore”, asserting on Wednesday that there would be “no boots on the ground. I said no”.
Subject to a UN go-ahead, the military operations would need to focus on actions “inside Libya’s internal and territorial waters and the coast”, the document says, while adding that seizing and destroying vessels on the high seas or in international waters in the Mediterranean would also be mandated.
The planning document admits that the campaign could result in innocent people being killed: “Boarding operations against smugglers in the presence of migrants has a high risk of collateral damage including the loss of life.”
The military campaign planning has been ordered because of the influx of migrants from sub-SaharanAfrica and the Middle East across the Mediterranean from Libya, with the death toll this year alone already estimated at nearly 2,000.
The paper cites information from the Italian police authorities saying that 200,000 migrants were preparing to board shoddy vessels to risk the crossing from Libya to Italy’s southern shores.
Up to 10 EU countries have volunteered to take part in the campaign, said senior officials, including Italy, which would command it, plus Britain, France and Spain.
On-the-ground reporting of Libyan smuggling networks suggests that pre-emptive military action would risk the prospect of serious collateral damage. According to smugglers and fishermen, smuggling vessels are often simply fishing boats bought on a one-time-use basis in the days prior to a smuggling mission, and kept in civilian harbours until the evening of their departure.
Debris washed ashore at Zefyros beach after a migrant boat capsized in the Aegean Sea. Photograph: Rex Features
About a year ago, I planned to pay a smuggler to get on a boat to Europe.
A lot of people in Europe think that we refugees don’t know that we can die at sea, that we have not seen the horrific pictures of refugees’ dead bodies, that we don’t know that tens of thousands of people have been buried on Europe’s shores.
But I do watch the news every day, and I had seen how more than 500 people had died a few kilometres from the Italian island Lampedusa in October 2013. I knew the statistics, I knew the risks. I had even lost friends of mine, who are some of the “refugees without a face and without a name”, as the media refers to them. But, in the same way as many Syrian refugees who, together with Eritreans, made up about half of the refugees crossing over to Europe by boat in 2014, I thought this was my only chance.
I am a Syrian refugee from the Palestinian al-Yarmouk camp in Damascus. When I was small, my grandmother used to tell us how she felt when she was forced to flee to Syria from her home in Palestine in 1948, and how she hoped that her children and grandchildren would never have to experience what it feels like to be a refugee. But we did. I was born a Palestinian refugee, and almost three years ago I became a refugee once more, when my family and I had to flee the Syrian war to Lebanon.
Our home, the Palestinian camp, had been under the hardest siege one can possibly imagine. I am still in touch with family and friends who could not leave Yarmouk camp. In a cruel absurdity, they sometimes have internet, but they don’t have food. Many of them have starved to death or died because they do not have access to medication or treatment.
My friends and family have always known me as a very optimistic person. I love life, I love people. I had worked in Cyprus, and even when I could not return home to my beloved Syria because the war had already started, giving up was the last thing I had in mind. In Lebanon, I started supporting my fellow Syrians and Palestinian-Syrians. They needed me, and their smiles and appreciation kept me going. I woke up every morning to volunteer with DPNA (Development for People and Nature Association), a partner organisation of CARE.
But about a year ago, I could not bear the situation any more. I felt the refugees’ suffering – that of the Syrians, the Palestinians, the Syrian-Palestinians. I felt their misery, their destroyed hopes and dreams. And I also thought about my own life, my future. I had lost hope. Before the war in Syria started, I had my whole life ahead of me. But then, at 27, my life as it was suddenly took a break. I could not work legally in my profession as an engineer any more. I had studied, I had money, a good job. Suddenly, I stood there with nothing at all. Being a refugee also means losing your future, your dreams.
People wait to receive food aid at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus. Photograph: Rame Alsayed/Reuters
I did not get on the boat to go to Europe. After long discussions with my family and friends, I am still in Lebanon, and I am still supporting my fellow refugees.
I am leading a project to train other volunteers now. Refugees are in need of humanitarian support. The refugees I work with have been engineers like me; they were doctors, teachers, farmers and workers. We had normal lives, and, as much as we refugees appreciate Europe for what it is, it’s not “heaven on earth” for us.
Like me, most refugees dream about going back home, going back to Syria. But if peace is not restored and neighbouring countries continue to struggle with the burden of hosting 4 million Syrian refugees, Europe for some seems to be the only option to live a life in dignity. We humans are all quite similar: we love our friends, our families, our home. We do not give this up easily. But bombs and bullets keep us away from the place we love most.
I follow the news, I follow the discussions. I hear politicians talk about the necessity for the EU to resume its rescue missions; about issuing asylum to Syrians and other refugees before they have to travel on unsafe waters.
I am truly touched that so many people around the world cry out about our suffering, that people around the world care. They understand that I have not chosen to be born as a Palestinian Syrian, as you have not chosen to be born as a European. I do not wish my situation on anyone.
But I would hope that we could make this time in history a time of change. Europeans have gone through similar pain, just a few generations ago. Europeans too have been refugees ; they were the reason why grand international law projects like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1951 refugee convention were drafted in the first place. I really hope that people in Europe can remind themselves of the bond of humanity that connects us all and that remains the strongest medicine against desperation and powerlessness.
But more than anything I hope that European and other leaders around the world resume their efforts to push for peace talks. In the end, most refugees hope that they can cease to be called refugees, that their countries will restore peace and that they can return to the places they love most: their homes.
Ali Sandeed is a Syrian-Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon. He works with CARE’s partner organisation, Development for People and Nature Association, to support fellow refugees
Armed Forces of Malta marines toss bottles of water to a group of around 180 illegal immigrants as a rescue operation gets underway. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters
Just as the evening light began to dim at the fishing port in Zuwara, a blue wooden boat with a slim white stripe began to slide silently from the quay. Seventeen or 18 metres long, there was little to distinguish it from the dozens of other boats moored nearby. It looked like a fishing boat, and it moved like one, too.
But watching from the quay, a passing diesel smuggler picked it out easily. It was an odd time of day to go fishing, he says. The day before, that boat might have carried hundreds of fish back to port. This night, it would bear hundreds of refugees towards Italy. A day after 800 people drowned in nearby waters, yet another trip was following in its wake.
“That’ll carry 200,” says the smuggler. “Minimum.”
It was a scene whose subtlety encapsulates the problem of dealing with the Mediterranean migration crisis by targeting individual smugglers and their boats. Shortly before this boat left its moorings on Monday, the EU said it would launch military operations against smugglers who are based in places like Zuwara, the starting point for smuggling in Libya. Late on Thursday night, the head of the European commission, Donald Tusk, confirmed that plan, promising to “capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers before they can be used”.
But interviews with one former and two current smugglers show therein lies a problem. Smuggling boats start life as fishing trawlers. The moment of transition from the latter to the former is informal and almost imperceptible to outsiders.
As the boat in Zuwara shows, smugglers do not maintain a separate, independent harbour of clearly marked vessels, ready to be targeted by EU air strikes. They buy them off fishermen at a few days’ notice. To destroy their potential pool of boats, the EU would need to raze whole fishing ports.
“One of the reasons why [Libyan] fish is expensive is the lack of fishing boats going out to sea to fish,” a people smuggler who wanted to be known as Hajj explains later. “They’re all being used by smugglers.”
On Monday night, someone like Hajj should have been worried. If the EU were to launch military operations, chief among their targets might be Hajj, a man said to have a hand in more than half the migrant departures from Zuwara.
But on the night that Europe essentially declared war against him, Hajj could not have cared less. He simply lay down on his side, propped his bare feet up on a cushion and helped himself to two whole snappers. He washed them down with a non-alcoholic bottle of Beck’s, then ate a plate of chopped apples. Finally, his friends blasted Amazigh music from the speakers of a car parked outside.
Zuwara and Garabulli are two of Libya’s smuggling ports.
“I’m not threatened,” says Hajj, a 33-year-old law graduate. “It’s been happening for years, these promises and threats. They’ll move on. What are they going to do, put two frigates here? Two warships? In Libyan waters? That’s an invasion.”
Far from panicking, Hajj and his friends are amused. What on earth would military options look like against such a tangled, complex trade? A trade deeply rooted in not just the coastal economy, but in dozens of way stations across the northern half of Africa. And one that is now reliant not just on a few experienced individuals but – thanks to the ongoing unrest sparked by Libya’s 2011 revolution – on overlapping and informal networks that emerge, morph and fade by the week.
“Who? Where?” asks a friend of Hajj’s when contemplating the potential targets of EU anti-smuggling operations. “No one has the name ‘smuggler’ written on their chest. Anyone here who has no money can sell their apartment, buy a boat, and organise a smuggling trip. By the time of the next trip you’d already have regained half the cost of the apartment. It’s a very easy formula.”
For a decade, Hajj has been one of Zuwara’s best-known smugglers. But now newcomers are undercutting his prices and competing for the same boats. “Before it was very risky to do this business, but now it’s an open market,” Hajj concludes. “There are so many people offering it.”
The dangerous route to Libya through the Sahara
To get to the smugglers, migrants have no single set method. In fact, there are an infinite number of ways – each a modern-day odyssey that may zigzag across several countries and thousands of miles until it brings the refugee to the Libyan coast. “Think of Libya as having two seas,” says Samer Haddadin, the head of the UN’s refugee agency in Tripoli. “There is the Mediterranean. But in the south of Libya is the sea of the Sahara. There are people coming from the south, from Niger or Sudan – and that trip is also very risky.”
Syrians, who formed the largest group of migrants crossing the Mediterranean last year, might have fled south through Jordan, Egypt, and then Sudan – before looping back upwards. Eritreans, who formed the second largest group, also make the dangerous trip through Sudan, where they are often at risk of kidnap. West Africans – among them Nigerians, Ghanaians and Senegalese – might come through Niger and Mali, sometimes passing through the hands of several smugglers.
Migrants cross the Sahara desert on a truck. Photograph: Aldo Pavan/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
All must brave the desert – and not everyone makes it. At every stage, migrants are at the mercy of the smugglers in that particular area; kidnappings for ransom or for slave labour are common. There are stories of smugglers abandoning their clients in the dunes and of dozens dying of thirst. “We suffered many things in the desert,” says a 21-year-old Darfurian, Mohamed Abdallah, who made it to the Libyan coast only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. “A lot of people died in the desert – my brothers and also my uncle’s boy. My friends died also. Just me and my nephew survived.”
Some people pay to reach the Libyan coast in one single transaction. Bayin Keflemekal, 30, a nurse from Eritrea, paid 6,179.38€ (6,379.14€) earlier this month to get there through Sudan within a week, on the back of a series of pick-up trucks. Others move in stages: Fatima Bahgar, a Malian student who was rescued from the sea last week by Libyan coastguards, says she spent a year in Algeria before travelling on to Libya.
Those with money can leave Libyan shores within days. But many have to stay to pay off their debts to smugglers earlier in the route – or to save up for the onwards maritime voyage. Every weekday morning in many Libyan towns, you can see people like this gathering on certain street corners, waiting for offers of casual labour.
Some are essentially kidnapped by smugglers or even local businessmen. Hajj claims not to be involved, but whoever is doing it seems to be holding migrants in warehouses, or treating them as slave labour, until they pay what they owe. Jennifer Collins, a Nigerian decorator, was recently held hostage in Libya while her husband earned enough at a carwash to pay the people who had smuggled them there. “I didn’t leave the house for six months,” she says.
What you pay depends on who you are
What happens next is hard to distil into a single narrative. Every smuggler likes to say their methods are much more humane and professional than those of their rivals. But they will disagree about what those methods should be, and how much they cost. In separate interviews, Hajj and Ahmed, the second-in-command of another large operation based further east, explain different, contradictory ways of getting migrants to sea.
Hajj uses both wooden trawlers and inflatable Zodiac dinghies to shunt people towards Italy and claims the Zodiacs are the safest method. Once, he claims, a Syrian family paid him 88,276.84€ to ensure they got to Italian waters, and he gave them a Zodiac all to themselves.
By contrast, Ahmed (a pseudonym) says he would not usually use Zodiacs, except to ferry people to the co-opted fishing sloops, anchored a few miles out to sea. “It’s impossible that they reach their destination [in a Zodiac],” he reckons.
But the means of getting people to the beachhead is broadly the same, whoever you talk to. Would-be travellers get in touch with Ahmed or Hajj, or one of their assistants. Sometimes they do it themselves, sometimes they come through middlemen from the migrant’s country of origin. Ahmed pays the middlemen a small fee of around 346.69€ per trip; Hajj doesn’t. But the upshot is usually the same: a price is agreed, and half is paid up front.
What you pay depends on who you are. At the moment, says Hajj, a sub-Saharan African is expected to pay “no more than 706.21€ or 882.77€. A Syrian would pay no more than 2,206.92€. A Moroccan no more than €1,500”. Because of the saturated market, prices are lower than usual – and as a result smugglers are trying to fill their ships with larger numbers to make up the shortfall.
That more disasters are happening this year is partly a result of the lower price for a seat on a boat. “It’s ridiculous,” says Hajj. “Three hundred passengers is the maximum for a 17-metre boat. But people are sending out boats loaded with 350, 700, 800. They are being overloaded because the price of an individual has gone down.”
Syrians, he says, tend to have more savings so they are paying more to go on boats with a safer number of passengers. “The Syrians ask: ‘What is a boat altogether?’ I’ll tell them. And they say: ‘We’ll give you this but don’t add more people, and for that we’ll pay 20% extra.’ [Sub-Saharan] Africans don’t ask for guarantees. They don’t have the money.”
A Libyan smuggler (with covered face) talks to African migrants at a house in Ghat, south-west Libya. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
When pressed on finance, neither Ahmed nor Hajj provide an account of their profits that really makes sense. It depends on constantly changing factors, they say – the size of the boats they use, how many people they cram on board and the nationality of their passengers.
But even then, the sums do not quite add up. Ahmed estimates his group’s profits come to around 50,000 dinar per trip (33,698.52€), and in a busy week of 20 trips they might make up to 693,385.11€. Yet in theory this figure should be even higher: the amount he says they make in revenue per trip (around 600,000 dinar, or 404,936.9€) vastly exceeds their only significant outgoing: the cost of a ship, which is around 150,000 dinar, or 102,621€, this year.
Similarly, Hajj claims he makes a profit of 22,000 dinar (14,838.44€) per boat, but only 91,526.83€ in an entire year. It’s an almost farcical understatement that does not begin to account for the number of trips he says he organises in the same period.
Both men are happier explaining how they get their passengers to sea. “Prior to embarking, the migrants all get a call,” says Ahmed, a former oil-rig technician. “They gather in a specific place. Transport takes them from that location in a safe house. All their phones get collected. They bring no luggage. They’re fed and watered and given access to toilets until the time to embark.”
Gruesome stories have emerged of how some migrants are treated by some smugglers at these nominally safe locations. There are reports of beatings to extract more money from people while they wait in the darkness.
Shady, a 34-year-old cloth trader from Syria, arrived in Libya from Algeria this January. He then spent a bewildering four months kept in a house in the next town along from Zuwara. He wasn’t tortured, but he shared a cramped house with people who were. He says: “The four months that we stayed there – do you know what death is like? Several times they said: we’re leaving. But we didn’t. Twice we reached the shore but were turned back. Once we reached the boat – but then they said there’s no more space.” Shady was only released last week, and finally made it to Italy a few days ago.
Hajj admits a Syrian woman was raped at one of his warehouses by the caretaker. But apart from that crime, he said his clients are treated with respect. Torture at his houses “has never happened”, Hajj claims. “In ethical terms, they’re people who have brought you a lot of money, so you can’t treat them like that.” But he would not allow an outsider to visit the places themselves, so the reality is impossible to confirm.
The process of procuring a boat is clearer. The Zodiacs were either looted from the Great Jamahiriya‘s old storehouses, or imported. The wooden boats are bought from local fishermen.
And some of their prices are going up. The cost of a Zodiac is fairly steady – with about 11,000 dinar the going rate. But the fishing boats are becoming more expensive. A few years ago, when fishermen could get a special loan from the government to subsidise the cost of a boat, a small wooden vessel, perhaps 17 metres long, might have cost 80,000 dinar on the black market. But now the loan system has ended, and boats are slightly scarcer, Hajj is paying double what he used to.
Boats are not exactly running out, he says. But he’s having to buy from fishermen who usually prefer not to get involved, and so have to be offered rather more tempting amounts. “Say 160,000 dinar, rather than 80,000,” Hajj estimates. “If I want a boat, I will buy it at any price.”
Getting out to sea
Getting the boats out of port is a delicate matter, and Ahmed and Hajj approach it differently. Ahmed asks the original owner to report the boat missing, even though it is usually still sitting in plain sight inside the port. Then he scrubs off its name, so it cannot be traced, and pays the coastguards 2,000 dinar to look the other way when his team sail it out to sea. “The coastguard at present is very weak,” Ahmed says. “They don’t earn very much and they’ll say yes to anything.”
Hajj claims he pays 25,000 dinar for a similar privilege – perhaps because he works from a different port, or perhaps because his method is even more blatant. He does not bother to report the boat as missing. His teams simply procure permission from the coastguards to take it out to sea for a three-day fishing trip. And then they do not come back.
Sub-Saharan African migrants are rescued by the Libyan coastguard after their inflatable boat started to sink off Garabulli. Photograph: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images
Instead, as night falls, they drop anchor at a safe distance. In the darkness, the migrants emerge from their safe houses and climb into the waiting Zodiacs.
In Zuwara, some of these houses are warehouses, some of them beach huts and others unfinished villas. But they are all on or close to the beach.
Shady, the Syrian trader, was kept in a tiny room filled with 45 men, nine women, and 12 children. At departure time, he says, “they told us to expect to wade into the water as far as our knees. But when we got on that plastic dinghy we were actually up to our mouths. It was 1am and we were covered in water.”
A short ride later, the hundreds of migrants are loaded on to the trawler. They are given a satellite phone, a GPS tracker, life jackets (at 15 dinar each, or roughly 5.55€) and some food and water. Then they are given a place to sit and told to remain seated. Hajj may claim to keep numbers to acceptable levels on the boats. But because he still packs so many on board, he admits the way they sit is important.
“We give them direct instructions not to move too much,” he says. “If you have to move, we tell them to just stand up and sit down – don’t go from side to side. If two or three start to do that, others want to do the same. That creates chaos that causes it to capsize.”
But Shady says there are many other problems that could cause a disaster, all the fault of the smugglers. Fresh off the boat from Zuwara, he says he was lucky to arrive after the boat was crammed with 80 more people than promised; two of the pistons in his boat’s engine broke; and the hull began to leak. If the boat had sunk, he might have survived – as a Syrian, he was allowed on deck. But African migrants were crammed in the boat’s hold. “It was just racist,” he says.
The crew usually are not smugglers themselves. The arrest of the two crew members who sent 800 to their deaths on Sunday has been hailed in some quarters as a significant development. But in reality, the pair may have just been co-opted migrants.
On the Zodiacs, the skipper is often a refugee given rudimentary steering training in the runup to the journey. On the trawlers, they have to have some kind of nautical experience. Sometimes they find real fishermen, Egyptians or Tunisians who simply want a means to get to Europe. But in a mass of more than 300 passengers, smugglers say they can usually find someone who already knows roughly what to do at sea.
Because the captain gets to travel for free, there is an incentive to inflate their experience – which can have tragic consequences. “Sometimes they fib,” says Amdiaz Aminzo, the pseudonym of a retired smuggler who is considering returning to the trade. “They have general knowledge and they pass the test – but in reality they don’t know how to react in a dire situation.”
Both Hajj and Ahmed admit that the goal is for the boats to get rescued rather than go all the way to the Italian coast.
The ships are pointed roughly towards a certain oil rig not far from Lampedusa. The expectation is that if the boat is not spotted earlier, the employees of the oil rig will call the Italian or Maltese coastguards to pick it up.
But crucially, both men displayed only vague awareness of Mare Nostrum, the full-scale rescue missions run last year by the Italian navy.
Their ignorance undermines the widely held belief that Mare Nostrum’s cancellation last October might force smugglers to rein in their operations. But while Hajj knew roughly what Mare Nostrum was, he did not know it had ended. Ahmed did not recognise the name at all.
“I’ve not heard of that,” he says. “What is that – from 2009?” Once informed, he shrugs. “Many people would go on the boats, even if they didn’t have any rescue operations,” he says, echoing arguments often made by refugees themselves.
Hajj agrees. With the Libyan war having escalated since last summer, he claims demand is up four-fold since last year.
A rubber dinghy with 104 sub-Saharan Africans on board waiting to be rescued by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station off the Libyan coast. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters
Abu Hamada, a 62-year-old civil engineer from the outskirts of Damascus, has not built much for several years, and yet by his own calculations he has earned about 2,080,155.32€ in the past six months. That is because since moving toEgypt after the Syrian civil war started, this Syrian-Palestinian refugee has found a far more lucrative line of work – smuggling.
As the recent discovery of two unmanned “ghost ships” carrying hundreds of migrants to Italy showed, refugees are looking to cross the Mediterranean in ever more desperate ways, amid what the International Organisation for Migration now believes is the world’s largest wave of mass migration  since the end of the second world war.
And newcomers to the smuggling trade are cashing in. Barely a year after starting business, Abu Hamada is the kingpin of the Syrian smuggling network in Egypt. The majority of Syrians attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Egypt to Italy are likely to sign up with one of his web of brokers. From May until October, the period when the weather allowed for smuggling missions, Abu Hamada’s men organised on average two trips a week, each earning him a profit of at least 41,603.11€.
Critics say he is profiting from people’s misfortune, indifferent to their suffering and in some cases causing it. Some of his team’s clients were on a now-notorious ship that sank near Malta in early September, killing more than 300 people. “They are the worst kind of humans,” says one of the gang’s would-be passengers, Osama, who was arrested – fortunately, as it turned out – as he waited to board the doomed vessel. “They don’t value anything apart from money.”
But holding forth in the small hours of a recent morning, during what he says is his first interview, Abu Hamada claims he’s the good guy. “What’s wrong with making a profit?” he says, sitting with some of his assistants in a tea garden in an affluent Cairo suburb. “If I’m making money at the same time as helping my countrymen, what’s the problem? I’m the only person people can trust in this business.”
The European Union has scaled back its Mediterranean rescue operation, in the hope that a reduction in the number of coastguards will discourage migrants from attempting a voyage that claimed more than 3,000 lives in the past year. But such a strategy underestimates the demand for smugglers such as Abu Hamada. Last year, he trafficked an estimated 10,000 people, and this year’s figure could be even higher.
There is no one way of smuggling people across the Mediterranean. Eritreans, Syrians, Palestinians and Egyptians are among the many different migrants attempting to get to Europe from Egypt. Interviews with two land-based smugglers, three ship-owners and dozens of migrants suggest different communities have different networks, and that the methods and terminologies used change from country to country, smuggler to smuggler, and even from week to week.
No single person controls every aspect of every trip. Foreign brokers such as Abu Hamada and his deputy and nephew Abu Uday (both are known by their nicknames) need Egyptian colleagues to carry out certain aspects of the operation, particularly at sea. But Abu Hamada is the central player in his network, the man through whom all money passes. Without him, his trips would not happen.
The process starts far from the sea itself. Individual migrants approach one of Abu Hamada’s Syrian brokers in their neighbourhood and fix a price. “It’s very easy to find someone – everyone knows a smuggler or two,” says Mehyar, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee who successfully made the trip last year. “In fact, you don’t need to find them. They find you.”
Abu Hamada’s men claim they charge a fixed price of 1,677.26€ (1,733.46€) a person, but in reality the price fluctuates. Some pay as much as 3,089.69€, some as low as 1,324.15€. The more you pay, the sooner you get to the boat.
All the money will eventually flow into a central fund controlled by Abu Hamada, from which he pays for the ship, the crew, his staff, transport costs and other expenses. But first the migrant usually pays the money to a third party trusted by both sides. Only when the passenger successfully reaches Italy should the third party release the money to Abu Hamada.
Palestinians throw roses in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Gaza City in mourning for the migrants who died in the boat that sank off Malta in September. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty
“If the ship sinks or it goes to Greece, we lose all the money,” says Abu Uday, an engineer, like his uncle, in a past life. “It’s harder to get to [the rest of] Europe from Greece.”
But if the migrants arrive safely, there is money to be made – and not just for Abu Hamada. Each boat of 200 passengers gives him a turnover of about335,451.98€. Of this, he spends half on the boat and about 61,793.79€ on the various costs related to bussing migrants to the sea. A further 26,483.05€ goes on housing the migrants in the days before their departure. The boat crew get13,241.53€, as do the brokers that find the migrants. After a few extra costs, Abu Hamada is usually left at the end of every trip with a profit of about39,724.58€-44,138.42€.
To get to the ship, migrants must first reach the port of Alexandria, Egypt’s second city and the hub of the smuggling networks on the Egyptian coast. A few are driven there directly, but Abu Hamada’s clients are given a time and place to meet and make their own way there.
Once in Alexandria, the migrants are hustled into shabby apartments in suburbs such as Palm Beach and Miami. Their names are evocative of more prosperous places, but in reality these are gloomy forests of tower blocks. And it is here that Abu Hamada block-books dozens of apartments, all summer long, for use as a holding bay for his clients before they leave for the ships.
“You stay two or three days there,” says Osama, the Syrian refugee who tried to travel with Abu Hamada this year. “Then they come and put a big group of you in buses.” Under cover of darkness, these buses drive the migrants for several hours to remote spots along the Mediterranean coast. If all goes to plan, which it often doesn’t, they then board dinghies at the beach. The dinghies take them to a larger vessel that carries them, hopefully, to Italy within a fortnight.
But few make the ship on the first attempt. The weather, the police and the coastguards can all force the buses to return to Alexandria for another night or more. One Syrian interviewee said she has had 30 false starts, and after each attempt she was brought back to Alexandria. She is still stuck in Egypt.
The buses are organised by an Egyptian – known in the business as the monassekor dalil – and it is at this point that Abu Hamada’s and Abu Uday’s control of proceedings begins to loosen. As foreigners, they say their relationship with the Egyptian authorities is weak. But, they claim, to get several busloads of illegal migrants to the shore, let alone to international waters, some level of government complicity is required. Which is where the monassek comes in.
They say the monassek is paid by Abu Hamada – about 305.09€ a passenger – to shepherd the migrants from the apartments to the large smuggling vessel that lies several miles off shore, and to deal with any government officials who might cause problems.
“We can’t bring them ourselves,” says Abu Uday, who does most of the talking for his uncle. “So we’re forced to go to the Egyptian middleman. He takes them from the apartments to the specific beaches, according to the deal with the government. Then he takes the people from the beaches on little boats to the bigger boat.”
Talk to most Egyptian middlemen and ship owners, and they will deny having a relationship with police and coastguards. “Of course we don’t. The Egyptian security is very keen to fight this sort of thing,” says one Egyptian smuggler, who gives his name as Captain Hamdy.
“There is no coordination with the coastguards, and people who say otherwise are lying,” adds a prominent fisherman in a coastal town known for its smugglers. “And the proof is that there are more than 10 trials ongoing for people involved in the smuggling business.”
Relatives of Palestinian immigrants who drowned at sea off the coast of Malta at a protest calling for disclosure about their fate. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
Egypt’s interior ministry spokesman, Gen Hany Abdel Latif, also strenuously denies the accusation. A smuggler “is a criminal outlaw who just wants to defraud people, take their money, and it doesn’t make any difference to them if the people die,” he told the Guardian. “Do you expect credibility from such a person? We already arrested many of them and the others will be busted [soon].”
But Abu Uday is adamant that, in his network at least, it is the monassek’s job to ensure the complicity of relevant government officials. “They just take care of one thing,” he says. “They deal with the authorities.”
In exchange for allowing smugglers to leave from certain points, Abu Uday claims, officials are paid up to 100,000 Egyptian pounds (about 12,342.25€) a trip. By agreement with the smugglers, police arrive after most of the migrants have managed to leave the beach. At that point, the remaining passengers are arrested and taken for a few days’ detention in police cells, to maintain the pretence that Egypt is playing its part in ending the smuggling trade.
“It’s normal that if I want to smuggle 300 [migrants],” says Abu Uday, “the authorities will take 50 and let 250 go, to show the Italians that they are doing some work.”
Migrants report similar stories. Three Syrian refugees, Osama, Loai and Tariq, were taken by Abu Hamada’s gang to a beach in August last year. Those who got to the beach first made it to the ship, and later died at sea. Those who got there last – like Osama, Loai and Tariq – were arrested on arrival at the beach. In separate interviews, the trio claimed that the men who helped the police to round them up were the same men who had led them to the water’s edge.
Later, during an interrogation at the police station, Osama mentioned the smugglers by name. Hours later, he got a call from Abu Uday. The police had told the smugglers that Osama had informed on them.
A third Abu Hamada customer, a Syrian refugee who asked to be named as Ahmed, was arrested in a similar way several days later. While in detention, Ahmed claims a coastguard officer confirmed the relationship between the smugglers and the authorities.
“Do you think the smugglers could leave without us knowing?” the officer allegedly told Ahmed. “We know about each trip from the smugglers themselves. Some we leave, some we don’t … We tell them that we have to arrest 80% and let 20% go.”
Each trip, about 300 migrants make it to a large fishing boat, lurking several miles out to sea. The boat belongs to Abu Hamada: for every trip, he pays Egyptian associates – usually fishermen known by nicknames such as “the Whale”, and “the Doctor” – to source a new one.
But as a Syrian-Palestinian, the boat cannot be listed in his name, and in the eyes of the law, it still belongs to the Egyptian he “buys” it from. Abu Hamada never sees the ship, and he does not choose its crew – who are usually out-of-work fishermen – or when and where it leaves from. In coordination with themonassek, it is the boat-owner who decides where a trip should leave from.
“The Syrian pays the money for the boat, but I handle everything else,” says one Egyptian boat owner who deals with Syrian gangs. “I find and pay the captain, I find the boat, and it’s my name on the boat documents.”
What this means is that Abu Hamada, exploiter of migrants, is sometimes exploited himself. Of the roughly 335,451.98€ he receives for every trip, he spends about half on what he thinks is a new, steel-hulled boat. His assistants proudly show the Guardian a picture of what they believe to be their latest purchase, a gleaming new vessel, painted green.
But in reality the Egyptian fishermen sometimes use old and faulty wooden boats instead. “The [Egyptian] smuggler will buy any old boat from me because he doesn’t care about its quality,” says one seller of secondhand boats.
Even if a new boat is purchased, the sailors who control it are often loth to use it to get to Italy. The boats that reach Italian waters are often impounded, so smugglers prefer to make the trip using the most expendable vessels. This means the sailors sometimes force the migrants to move from new boats to smaller and older ones several days into their voyage – a frightening and dangerous procedure that risks overloading already rickety vessels. Survivors of the catastrophic sinking in September, which killed more than 300 off the coast of Malta, say the crash occurred after the migrants were asked to change boats.
In the past month a new and still more ruthless tactic has emerged. To avoid being stopped by Italian authorities, smugglers are now presenting their vessels as legal entities until they are within a few miles of Italy. Then the crew disembark, forcing the Italian authorities to intervene to save lives.
An Egyptian ship owner involved in the smuggling business told the Guardian that his associates used similar tactics, and often left their vessels in the hands of untrained charges “who don’t know how to sail”.
“They only have GPS,” said the ship owner, who asked to be known as Abu Khaled, from a port on Egypt’s north coast. “So the driver doesn’t have any more sailing knowledge than this. He just follows the arrow. The GPS is the captain.”
Abu Hamada says his crews don’t use this tactic, claims what happens at sea is beyond his control, and expresses regret at the deaths of some of his customers in September. “Why is everyone attacking me?” he asks. “You should be attacking the ship owners. If you want to say they’re trading in souls, you’d be right.”But the way his team treat his clients back on land is hardly any better. Several migrants criticised the exhausting and humiliating process of trying to reach the right departure beach, night after night.
Each evening, migrants are crammed into small buses and driven for hours to whatever beach has been allocated for that day’s departure. Often the journey is in vain. Either the weather or the police force the smugglers to cancel the trip.
If it does go ahead, often there’s only time for some of the migrants to go to sea – usually those who still have the money to bribe the smugglers. The rest are either arrested or driven back to Alexandria, and sometimes forced to remain on board the bus until the following evening’s attempt. “We did this trip five or six times – every day without going back into the flat,” remembers Osama.
Several migrants report being beaten by the smugglers. Two claimed they were robbed by them. A third said their bus was car-jacked by Bedouin tribesmen as it neared a remote beach. “It was one whole month of unfortunate events,” says Osama. “We saw things we never saw in our lives before – even in Syria.”
Britain has all but withdrawn its support for EU-led rescue missions in the Mediterranean, in the belief that sea patrols encourage more migrants to attempt the crossing. But such a strategy underestimates the greed of the smugglers and the desperation of the smuggled.
Despite the risks and despite the callousness of their traffickers, Syrian refugees say they would try again and again to cross the Mediterranean with the help of people like Abu Hamada.
The horrors of Syria, and the subsequent prejudice and poverty they face in countries such as Egypt, give them no other choice.
“Why do we keep going by sea?” asks Ahmed. “Because we trust God’s mercy more than the mercy of people here.”
And Abu Hamada is only too happy to oblige.
Additional reporting by Manu Abdo
How to stop the refugee flow? Find a safer option
The use of migrants as crew members underscores a further challenge to planned attempts to target smugglers’ boats. Not only are smuggling vessels only identifiable as such for a few short hours, but the smugglers themselves barely have to board them. Migrants can often sail the ships for the smugglers, while the key smugglers largely keep to the shore.
But there is one small chink in their armour that Hajj himself says the EU should pursue if they are serious about curbing the smuggling trade. When smugglers’ ships are rescued by coastguards, their passengers are allowed to disembark, while the vessel itself is frequently left to drift in the sea. If it is damaged, that is often not enough to sink it. This allows the smugglers to return to the empty vessel, tow it back to the Libyan shore, and fix it up once again. A line of trawlers currently waiting for maintenance on the quay at Zuwara is testimony to this strategy.
“Why do they leave the boats intact?” asked Hajj. “That helps us, because all we have to do is go out to sea and tow them back to shore.” There are instances where the same boat has been used in four separate migrant missions.
Female migrants who were rescued off the coast of Italy. Photograph: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
But beyond the destruction of specific boats, conversations with smugglers, refugees and coastguards along the shores of west Libya suggest there are other, more long-term strategies for curbing the flow of people across the Mediterranean. The message from refugees is clear: find us a safer option. Often fleeing dictatorship, war or hunger at home and faced with further conflict and exploitation in supposedly safer havens like Libya, to many refugees the Mediterranean seems the least bad option.
“It is not our choice to penetrate the sea,” said Keflemekal from Eritrea, one of the world’s harshest dictatorships. “If we got some help from the Libyan government, from UNHCR, we would try something else. But if the government won’t help us, if UNHCR won’t help us, if no one can help us, then the only option is to go to the smugglers.”
A return to stability in Libya is also crucial. The Libyan civil war, which has divided the country between two rival governments and dozens of militias, has left local law enforcement either unconcerned about, unable to deal with, or part of the problem in the first place. In the expanse of western Libya, where most migrant missions begin, the Libyan coastguard has just three functioning boats. In Zuwara, there is just one – a Zodiac no bigger than some of the smugglers’ smallest ships. The coastguards have not been paid in months, while an extra ship that could help them increase their operations remains in Tunisia because the local government could not afford to pay for its maintenance.
In an area where there are dozens of smuggling missions a week, trying to resist seems pointless, said a Zuwaran coastguard who gave his name as Mostafa.
“The EU, if it really wants to stop smuggling from Zuwara, they need to bring us the tools to this office,” Mostafa said, claiming that millions of dollars meant for ports like Zuwara had never reached their target after they were sent straight to the illegal Brotherhood central (so-called) ‘government’ in Tripoli. “We need serious tools, boats, proper patrols, a committee to train us. Don’t give the aid to Tripoli. Give it to us in Zuwara.”
Messages written by Gambian migrants, who were deported from Libya. Photograph: Joe Penney/Reuters
Zuwarans also ask for proper economic alternatives. Work has always been scarce in the home of a long-marginalised ethnic minority: the Amazigh. Hajj says he only turned to smuggling because he could not find work as a lawyer.
Some here have protested against the people-smuggling trade after a series of dead migrants washed up on the beach last year. But even if they do not like what their town has become infamous for, many others turn a blind eye because of the cashflow it indirectly brings them.
“We know it is cruel. The seas are treacherous. Capsizing boats are a possibility,” says one local, who has turned to fuel smuggling. “But we have to turn a blind eye as people are benefiting financially and there is no other work.”
There are some who argue that greater recognition for the Amazigh would turn the tide against smuggling, at least in Zuwara. After the Great Jamahiriya fell in 2011, in part thanks to western air strikes, there were false hopes among the Amazigh that the new ‘Muslim’ Brotherhood Libya, supported by the EU, would afford Amazigh more power and authority. But little progress has followed, and in several interviews locals claim the surge in smuggling is a response to being ignored. Others say the Amazigh’s plight should not be used to excuse organised crime.
But Hajj himself says the two are linked. “There are smugglers who work for the pleasure of making money, even in Zuwara,” he says. “But there are others like me who work for the pleasure of putting pressure on you [Europeans].”
True or not, recognising the Amazigh won’t curb smuggling in Arab parts of Libya. That’s the message from Ahmed, who smuggles from Garibulli, a town a few hundred kilometres to the east. While the world fails to address the root causes of the biggest wave of mass migration since the second world war, the business will continue.
“It’s not going to stop,” he says. “It’s simply not going to stop. The borders in the south [of Libya] are open, and there is always going to be an appetite for it.”
Additional reporting: Yaseen Kanuni
To those not involved in the transaction, the boat’s new purpose would only be hinted at once it left port in the early evening, and dropped anchor some distance from the shore to await the arrival of its passengers by dinghy. This gives European navies only a brief window to identify smuggling vessels and destroy them without endangering innocent life.
EU forces would also have to contend with Libya’s many militias, most of which are broadly aligned under two rival governments. Both governments have rejected the prospect of foreign intervention on Libyan soil to combat smuggling.
Amnesty International has also warned against any attempt to attack smugglers that do not simultaneously provide alternative exit strategies for migrants trapped on the Libyan coast. In a report released on Monday, Amnestyhighlighted the torture and exploitation faced by the vast majority migrants in Libya, who mostly lack legal protection, and who often see the sea as their only route of escape.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, said: “Introducing measures to tackle smugglers without providing safe alternative routes out for the people desperate to flee conflict in Libya, will not resolve the plight of migrants and refugees.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Kingsley
The 19-page strategy paper for the mission, obtained by the Guardian, focuses on an air and naval campaign in the Mediterranean and in Libyan territorial waters. But itadds that ground operations in Libya may also be needed to destroy the smugglers’ vessels and assets, such as fuel dumps. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s chief foreign and security policy coordinator, reiterated that position on May 13.
«We are not planning in any possible way a military intervention in Libya,» she said. According to her, establishing control over the territorial waters of Libya is enough to destroy the smugglers’ infrastructure. But the assurances that there will be no boots on the ground sound unconvincing. It’s clear that the West is serious about what it plans to do. For instance, Great Britain is going to send amphibious transport dock HMS Bulwark, the flagship of Royal Navy, to fight small smuggler’s boats. Air and naval forcesare to bear the brunt of the mission. The operations conducted ashore by special operations forces teams are not excluded, no matter the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy says otherwise. Media outlets started to examine the public opinion.
The plan obtained by the Guardian says ground operations in Libya may be needed. EU governments have still to discuss and decide on the planning document. A joint session of EU foreign and defence ministers is to decide on the mission on May 18, followed the next day by a meeting of defence chiefs from European Union countries.The military package would then need to be given a green light by heads of government at an EU summit slated for June. Ten European Union members have already expressed their approval, including Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy. According to Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s United Nations ambassador, his government has been left out of the urgent international discussion of the migrant crisis. This is the legacy of colonial past. Europeans stillview Libya as a colony.
Federica Mogherini has already visited New York to discuss prospects for a UN Security Council resolution allowing the use of force against the smugglers. The Guardian reports that that the UK has prepared a draft document on behalf of the EU «that is believed to call for the ‘use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers’. Mogherini sounded optimistic about adoption of UN Security Council resolution allowing the use of force against the smugglers, but also made plain that if that proved impossible, the EU would still mount a military mission in the Mediterranean outside of Libyan territorial waters and airspace.
A question pops up. Creating obstacles on the way of flows of unfortunate people leaving Libya for Europe – is it the only goal pursued by the planned military operation in the Mediterranean Sea? The Libya’s shoreline is some 1,100 miles (1,800 km) in length. A large naval force is needed to control it. The chances for destroying the smugglers’ infrastructure are slim. Too many people are involved in this business.
The Overthrow of the “GREAT JAMAHIRIYA” has plunged the once sovereign nation, into the quagmire of chaos. It has joined the list of most unstable countries in the world which are primarily located in Africa. Large chunks of national territory have fallen under the control of the Islamic State and other extremist groups. Libya is an oil rich country but the production is low with numerous criminal gangs thwarting the process. Cyrenaica, the oil rich eastern coastal region of Libya, is crying for Federalism and people’s power of determination without outside (colonial power) interference.
The Libya we once knew is no more. Flows of refugees from Arab and Black Africa transit through Libya on the way to Europe. There is little Europe could do under the circumstances but use military force to stop the flows. Brussels has made all of the European Union members to partner up on policies such as EU immigration. Poland is situated far from Africa but it has to host 1200 refugees. Latvia is to provide shelter to 220 fugitives, Estonia is to host 326 of them. 207 evacuees are to be taken care of by Lithuania. But this policy does not offer a solution to the problem.
In 2015 Libya expects 135 thousand people to be born on its soil, but the population of the country will not increase due to the fact that about the same number of people leave the country. Libya is a transit country for refugees from Algeria, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Senegal, Ghana and Eritrea going to Europe. The sources in Rome say a surge of immigrants will flood Europe soon. As many as 5,000 migrants a week could arrive in Italy by sea from North African ports in the next five months unless something is done about it, according to an interior ministry projection. The figures, published on April 23 by the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero and confirmed by a ministry source, estimated that as many as 200,000 could arrive by the end of this year.
There should no harbor for illusions. One can hardly imagine the West admitting responsibility for the dire results of the policy aimed at «protecting the common citizens» of Libya, as stated in Resolution 1973 [responsibility to ‘protect’] of the UNO.
European states have come under renewed pressure from human rights and refugee organisations to mount large-scale search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean after the latest migrant boat disaster led to the drowning of an estimated 400 people.
Critics say that the cancellation last year of an Italian-run sea rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, and the launch in November of Triton, a much smaller border surveillance operation by the EU, created the conditions for the higher death toll. They point to the figure of 900 dead so far this year, far greater than in the same period in 2014, as proof that the end of Mare Nostrum failed to deter migrants while leaving far fewer safeguards in place to rescue victims of frequent shipwrecks.
“It is time to bring back the search-and-rescue capacity of the Mare Nostrum operation, this time as a collective European effort,” said Jan Egeland, a former UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, and now secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “The Mediterranean is now the world’s most dangerous border between countries at peace. European nations have completely run out of excuses. They have to act now in order to prevent even bigger tragedies than those we have already witnessed.”
NB: These figures do not include official April numbers and also do not include the 400 unconfirmed deaths this week.
Michael Diedring, the secretary general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said: “Our calls for EU search-and-rescue efforts in the Mediterranean have fallen on deaf ears. Apart from the outstanding efforts of the Italian navy, the EU continues to fail to act.”
The Triton operation is run by Frontex, the EU’s border management agency, with a monthly budget of €2.9m (2.91€m), less than a third of what was spent on Mare Nostrum.
“Operation Triton and Mare Nostrum are two very different operations: the first was run by the Italian navy and was taking place close to Libya. Operation Triton is run by Frontex, whose mandate focuses on border control. This is why our operation takes place closer to the Italian coasts,” said Izabella Cooper, a spokeswoman for Frontex. “Because of the different mandate, Operation Triton was never intended to replace Mare Nostrum.”
Cooper added: “While our primary focus is border control, saving lives is an absolute priority. Since the beginning of 2015 about 18,000 migrants arrived inItaly of which 16,000 were rescued during in search-and-rescue operations. Out of these over 5,000 – a third of the total – were rescued by Frontex vessels in Triton.”
She said the vast majority of Triton search-and-rescue operations actually took place far from the Italian coastal area and very close to Libya.
By comparison, the Italian Mare Nostrum operation rescued 100,000shipwrecked migrants over its year-long existence.
The European commission has drawn up a broad policy document, the European Agenda on Migration, due to be presented to member states next month. It is aimed at establishing a concerted European asylum policy and more clearly defining conditions for legal migration, while formulating “a clear plan to fight smuggling and trafficking of migrants and an effective return policy”.
Human Rights Watch warned that some of the proposals being circulated, including the possible establishment of offshore processing centres in north African countries, as well as outsourcing border control and rescue operations in order to prevent departures, raised human rights concerns.
“It’s hard not to see these proposals as cynical bids to limit the numbers of migrants and asylum seekers making it to EU shores,” said Judith Sunderland, HRW’s acting deputy Europe and central Asia director. “Whatever longer-term initiatives may come forth, the immediate humanitarian imperative for the EU is to get out there and save lives.”
The British charity Save the Children said it would launch a campaign on Thursday calling on British political parties to press for search-and-rescue operations to be included in the European agenda on migration, and “develop a long-term plan to tackle the drivers of children on the move and ensure these children are protected.”
Justin Forsyth, the head of the charity, said: “Our political leaders cannot ignore the fact that without search and rescue we are allowing thousands of innocent children and their families to drown off the coast of Europe.
“Whoever makes up the next government has a moral obligation to work with the EU to restart the rescue. Every migrant child’s death is a stain on Europe’s conscience. How many thousands must die this summer before Europe acts?”