Who Profits from the Deadly Illegal Migrant Trafficking Trade Across the Mediterranean?

Captain  and first mate of capsized  illegal migrant vessel Mohammed Ali Malek, left, and Mahmud Bikhit

Source: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Yesterday,   we drew attention to the massive surge in the deadly illegal migrant trade across the Mediterranean that figured in an emergency meeting of EU Foreign ministers in Luxembourg.   The loss of over 1,000 in two separate trafficking ship disasters  last week  spurred on  deliberations requested by Italian President Renzi and Maltese PM Muscat. Today charges were brought in Italian courts against the 27 year old Tunisian captain  and 25 year  old Syrian mate of the 66 foot fishing boat  that capsized off Libya with a loss of upwards  of 900 crammed into the flimsy vessel.  NBC news reported:

The Tunisian captain of the boat — 27-year-old Mohammed Ali Malek — was arrested along with a Syrian crew member, 25-year-old Mahmud Bikhit.

Sicilian prosecutors said Tuesday that Malek has been charged with culpable shipwreck, manslaughter and aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Bikhit has been charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigration, the statement from Catania’s prosecutors said.  

The question is who benefits from this deadly smuggling business?  

The answer is the jihadists in Libya who  have profited from the turmoil in the  region. A Wall Street Journal report revealed how profitable the business of  trafficking  illegal migrants  is worth taking the risks involved as deadly as the results have been to their customers seeking refuge in the EU,. The bottom line of the  WSJ report: “Brazen, multi-million-dollar people-smuggling enterprise run by Libyan militias and tribesmen proves hard to combat.”

The WSJ wrote:

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.

How a Saharan tribe profits:

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.


Mustapha Orghan, an activist who has worked with aid groups to track  smuggler operations said:

Tebu and Tuaregs used to smuggle goods. The new alternative is human trafficking…and now both Tuaregs and Tebu are trying to get their share of the cake.”

Mr. Orghan said Ghat, a southern Libyan town near the Algerian border where he lives, is the first entry point from Algeria for Africans. There, he said, “African migrants get sold from one smuggler to another.”

He said the trafficking business has become increasingly lucrative since chaos in Libya sharply reduced traditional sources of income in the region: heavily subsidized oil, food and other goods from Algeria.

“Farming” migrants to make profits:

In Sabha, African men typically spend months working as laborers, and women as housemaids, to earn the roughly $1,000 to pay for the crossing from Libya’s northern coast. If there is no demand for their services in Sabha, smugglers farm them out to cities further north and west for approximately 700 Libyan dinar, or about $500.

Discrimination among “customers” leads to  deadly trips:

Ismail, an African migrant who declined to give his full name and nationality, tried to cross three times in recent weeks but was thwarted by overcrowding and breakdowns of the cheap plastic boat of the sort usually provided for Africans. Syrians, who can often pay more and aren’t discriminated against by the overwhelmingly Arab smugglers, typically make the crossing in sturdier wooden boats.

The EU  according Frontex agency has arrested 10,000 involved in the illegal migrant trade, mainly truck drivers and many migrants involved in navigating the flimsy crafts.  Italian authorities have arrested `1,000 smugglers since 2014. However of these, less than 100 have been convicted. They simply lack the resources in contending with the mushrooming human trafficking business as Libya devolves into a failed state.

Watch this WSJ video dramatizing the journey of an Eritrean illegal migrant across Africa to Libya and his perilous transit via smugglers  to his ultimate destination in the Italian island of Lampedusa:



Yesterday’s EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg may have surfaced calls for safe and secure channels to reduce the deadly toll of illegal migrants, but going after the lucrative smuggling trafficking business at its source means contending with warring militias and the criminal activities of tribal groups in Libya.  Note this ironic comment from the UN Human Rights Commission head:

“Europe is turning its back on some of the most vulnerable migrants in the world, and risk turning the Mediterranean into a vast cemetery,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein Monday. “Migrant smugglers are the symptom, not the cause of this wretched situation.”

 Jihad conflicts in  the Middle East and Africa are driving hundreds of thousands annually in desperation to pay top dollar for  a deadly ride on those rickety boats whose owners cop big time profits. Nature abhors a vacuum when chaos creates rich opportunities to rake in enormous wealth from trafficking  illegal migrants.  As we saw yesterday, the successful smugglers even alert EU officials that they are bringing another shipload of hapless migrants to fatten their margins from this deadly trade.  How the EU and the Union for the Mediterranean deal with problem of illegal mass immigration will surely be daunting costing billions of Euros. In the meantime, Italian and other EU coast guards continue to provide  a picket line of vessels  daily monitoring these dangerous trips in  flimsy craft across the Mediterranean from the failed state of Libya.  Stay tuned for developments.





3 Responses

  1. It is a good idea to arrest the captains and crews immediately upon arrival in Europe. Word will filter back home that smugglers will be punished severely, and this might act as a deterrent to prospective smugglers.

  2. It’s rather ironic that the blacks who are here blame all their woes on being forcefully brought to America 300 years ago and the blacks who are still in Africa blame their woes on not being brought to America, or Europe. I am one of those colonialists who were told quite adamantly we were not welcome after independence and I feel we have every right to reciprocate.

  3. Send back all the Muslims. No exceptions.

    The Christians? – put them in boot camp, both spiritual and military. Literacy classes for the illiterate with a vernacular Bible as the graduation prize; solid catechesis to strengthen their faith (get Barnabas Fund to help); first aid classes; a crash course in the history of Islam in Africa (e.g. compulsory viewing of the presentation based on Tidiane N’Diaye’s “Le Genocide Voile”) and elsewhere (e.g. show them “Islam: What the West Needs to Know”, dubbed or subtitled, or a few of Mr Warner’s “Centre for the Study of Political Islam” videos); get Mark Durie to do a couple of short presentations on dhimmitude and how to de-dhimmify people, and dub it into French for the Francophones. Plus some basic military training – and some info on how Muslims fight, with emphasis on the fact that Muslims only sue for ‘peace’ (ie a hudna/ Treaty of Hudaybiyya) when feeling weak and will *not* keep any ‘agreement’ made with non-Muslims. *Then* send them back, equipped with some necessary basic skills and information, to their homelands or – if they have fled from a majority-Muslim land – to another part of Africa where the non-Muslims are still in majority…to boost the majority. That’s what could be done…but it won’t be done unless and until European countries *themselves* can shake off dhimmi attitudes and inhibitions.

    Copts and Assyrian Christians should not be sent back as their populations in their homelands are too hopelessly outnumbered and do not have a defensible and economically viable territory that could become a sovereign state such as Israel is for the Jews. They can and should be taken in by majority-Christian countries across the world, so as to boost the overall numbers of the dar al harb (and deprive the dar al Islam of people who can be used to play the hostage game). However, anyone receiving and integrating them *must* study and take seriously Durie’s work on dhimmitude “The Third Choice” and “Liberty to the Captives”, so as to be able to free them from dhimmi conditioning.

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