The EU is in the midst of another refugee crisis in the Straits that separates Sicily from North Africa. The flash point of the humanitarian crisis is the Island of Lampedusa 297 kilometers offshore of Tripoli, Libya. 168 kilometers north of Lampedusa is the Island Republic of Malta which is also in the crosshairs of this crisis. Refugees from the Jihadist conflicts throughout the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, even South Asia pack into a flotilla of overloaded vessels which make a bee-line for this Italian landfall with less than 5,000 full time residents, where heretofore they received a welcome. Off-shore of Lampedusa now sits a flotilla of EU coast guard vessels on rotating duty alert for distress calls escorting floundering vessels to port on the Italian island and hence to Sicily and the Italian mainland. Unfortunately, these days Italian and EU coast guard vessels also search for the bodies of illegal migrants washed overboard.
The illegal refugee crisis in the Mediterranean reached a new peak in late April 2015 when thousands of illegal ‘migrants’ attempted the perilous journey. They were seeking refuge and access to generous welfare and absorption benefits from the EU. In one tragic instance, an overloaded 66 foot fishing vessel capsized on Sunday, April 19th when migrants rushed to one side of the deck hailing a commercial vessel responding their distress call. The result was over 800 downed, less than 49 survived and 28 bodies have been pulled from the water so far. Another ship disaster last week claimed 400 lives off Tripoli. The picket line of Italian and other EU coast guard vessels were pressed into service endeavoring to recover the remains. That week, an estimated 8,500 made the crossing on questionable vessels arranged by human traffickers. In 2014 more than 1,600 died during turbulent crossings. So far this year more than 900 lives have been lost. Frontex data shows that migration across the Mediterranean in 2014 peaked to a level more than twice as high as its previous peak in 2011. 170,760 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2014, compared with 64,300 in 2011, 15,900 in 2012, and 40,000 in 2013.
Italian President Renzi and Maltese PM Muscat requested an emergency EU Summit to address these deadly illegal migrant ship disasters. It was quickly added to the agenda of the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg. According to a USA Today report Renzi said, “How can it be that we daily are witnessing a tragedy?” Muscat seconded Renzi calling “it the “biggest human tragedy of the last few years.” The illegal migration problem was discussed at the Informal meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the EU and the Southern Mediterranean countries held in Barcelona on April 13th to discuss the future of the European Neighborhood Policy.
However, there was a new development. In one illegal crossing, 12 Christians from Nigeria and Ghana were thrown overboard from a sinking raft by Muslim compatriots, because they wouldn’t recite the Shahada – the profession of faith or other Qur’anic verses. The perpetrators were arrested by Italian police. Onshore, ISIS followers in Libya beheaded 30 Ethiopian Orthodox Christians seeking to make the illegal passage across the Mediterranean, yet another outrage. That sparked anger from the Obama Administration. However, in the 20 months remaining of President Obama’s final term in office, the priority is engagement with Iran over its nuclear program via the P5+1 process hoping to deprive the Islamic regime of nuclear weapons. That priority leaves a legacy for his successor to deal with, a welter of crises.
Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels in a 10 NewsDK blog post noted the scandal of EU cooperation with North African human traffickers:
Last weekend the EU coast guard transported 8,500 people from North Africa to Italy alone. EU says that it “saves” the “refugees” (many of them turn out to be jihadis or fake refugees) from the dangerous travel across the Mediterranean. However, it is the EU that lures millions to do this potentially deadly trip by promising Western welfare to those willing to take the chance. The EU should either start offering free transport from Africa to Europe or start sending all refugees back to local camps. I advise the latter option, and not just because it would make us able to give safety to more people for the same amount of money – which is more compassionate. But also because it would dissuade people from taking the deadly chance. Thereby nobody would die in the attempt to reach EU shores. That is how Australia does it – and since Australia introduced this policy, the amount of drowned boat-refugees decreased to zero.
It is obvious that the situation is unsustainable, but as long as our politicians continue to obey the EU and the UN, the human tsunami of refugees seeking the help of European tax payers will continue. According to humanitarian agencies “up to half a million migrants may try to cross the Mediterranean this year – a figure that would dwarf the 170,000 who reached Italy last year.”
According to a report from Express, North African Human smugglers are alerting EU authorities they are sending illegal people across the Mediterranean:
Trafficking gangs ferrying immigrants into the European Union are tipping off officials so Italian and EU coast guard vessels can pick up their boats. …
Gangs are so certain their boats will be picked up they’re even putting less fuel in the tank because naval vessels will pick them up, a former UK immigration manager has revealed.
Of the 270,000 migrants who arrived in Europe illegally last year, more than 220,000 of them came through North Africa.
Many of those attempting the dangerous crossing in overloaded un-seaworthy craft were propelled by sectarian conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria involving ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram. Muslims among these illegal migrants are being welcomed into what the scholar Bat Ye’or called Eurabia: the Euro Arab Axis. In her book, Bat Ye’or warned about the consequences of EU bureaucracies engaged in outreach to Muslim countries on the periphery of the Mediterranean via the Barcelona Process of the 1990’s. That led to the establishment of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in Paris on July 13, 2008 at a meeting of 43 heads of Euro-Mediterranean States. Subsequently, Foreign Ministers of the UfM met in Marseilles in November 2008 and established a headquarters in Barcelona. In 2010, senior member states of the UfM approved the Statues and Barcelona Headquarters in accordance with Spanish Law. According to the website of the UfM its vision and mission/mandate are:
The UfM is a multilateral partnership aiming at increasing the potential for regional integration and cohesion among Euro-Mediterranean countries. The Union for the Mediterranean is inspired by the shared political will to revitalize efforts to transform the Mediterranean into an area of peace, democracy, cooperation and prosperity.
The UfM was promoted by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a means of contending with the problems of rejectionist émigré Muslim communities engaged in internal disturbances attributable to mass immigration. Add to that are the contemporary problems of thousands of EU Muslims traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State to fight and build the self-declared Caliphate. A Caliphate engaged in ethnic cleansing of infidels: Christians, ancient religious minorities and what are deemed heterodox Muslims.
Fjordman, Norwegian blogger Peder Jensen, author of Defeating Eurabia said in an email exchange:
While the Mediterranean is flooded with illegal immigrants, including Islamic Jihadists, the EU elites are creating a Union for the Mediterranean. Europe needs a Union for the Mediterranean just like it needs a beheading. This is, coincidentally, just what it might get. It is doubtful whether most Europeans want a Union with North Africa and the Middle East, but then the EU elites never cared about what ordinary Europeans think. There is no reason for them to start now.
The Syrian Civil war displaced nearly 4 million registered refugees. UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) administered camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt hosting 3.2 million. 22 countries have agreed last December to accept 100,000 of the more than 320,000 Syrian refugees most at risk in 2016. The UNHCR has requested absorption of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees by major EU countries and even here in the US.
The consequences of these refugee and illegal migrant flows caused by sectarian Jihad warfare in the Muslim Ummah heartland are ironic. The Eurabian bureaucracies have in effect acquiesced to the Islamic doctrine of Dar al Hijrah – the land of immigration, a reflection of the Prophet Mohammed’s migration from Mecca to Medina that kick started the first grand Jihad. That has given rise to calls by center right parties in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, Sweden and the UK to reject further mass Muslim migration, whether legal or illegal. This is a reflection of rising concern over Muslim citizens traveling to join the cause of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda only to have some return to commit massacres like the Charlie Hebdo mass shooting and the Hyper Cacher Kosher Supermarket in Paris that killed 17 in January 2015. As both Sennels and Fjordman have stated, the EU citizens will pay the price of this massive wave of illegal Muslim emigration across the Mediterranean spawned by Jihad.
Geert Wilders’, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, drew attention to this dilemma in a speech April 29, 2015 at the Washington, D.C. Conservative Opportunity Society:
The UN plan to resettle 1 million immigrants in Western nations will provide jihadis an opportunity to infiltrate Western countries, including the US. It will give terrorists the opportunity to settle in our countries without the extra scrutiny involved in obtaining a visa or a residence permit.
We should not do this. The vast majority of the European citizens disapprove of the way their governments are handling immigration. Moreover, there are plenty of other safe countries where immigrants bound for the West can go to, including the wealthy Gulf States that have almost zero asylum-seekers today.
Immigration, especially Islamic immigration, had devastating consequences. It has made our countries less safe.
Tunisian Captain and Syrian first mate of capsized fishing vessel off Libya, April 19, 2015.
Smuggler Profiteering of Illegal Migrant Trafficking
The massive surge in the deadly illegal migrant trade across the Mediterranean figured in the emergency meeting of EU Foreign ministers in Luxembourg. The loss of over 1,200 in two separate trafficking ship disasters spurred on deliberations requested by Italian President Renzi and Maltese PM Muscat. April 22, 2015 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 800 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. This is 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.
According to the Frontex agency the EU 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:
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.”
The European Commission Proposals
The Brussels meeting of the European Commission (EC) on April 23, 2015 proposed a number of temporary measures to deal with the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. The EC recommended doubling of Southern European border–control missions of Spain, Malta and Italy from the present level of $3.2 million monthly to effectively “increase search and rescue operations.” The EC will also provide additional resources to Spain, Malta and Greece. Another EC proposal would provide assistance to Tunisia, Egypt and Niger in buttressing their land border controls. The EC proposed a pilot project to re-distribute 5,000 refugees who meet asylum requirements stranded outside the EU, as an attempt to fairly distribute the burden of asylees. That flies in the face of objections by major northern countries to further asylum quotas. In 2014, 626,065 refugees filed asylum claims, a 44% percent increase over 2013. As one example, Germany experienced a sharp rise is asylum requests over the first quarter of 2015 to 85,394, double over the same period in 2014. By contrast the U.S. received 47,500 asylum applications.
The majority of those asylum seekers hail from Kosovo, Syria and Albania. Germany currently has a backlog of over 200,000 applications. This has given rise to complaints by municipalities in Germany about the impact on facilities and community integration. In the most controversial proposal, the EC requested EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Federica Mogherini to develop rules of engagement enabling it to capture and destroy illegal smuggling vessels. Overall EC President Donald Tusk of Poland said the illegal migrant crisis is a” complex issue” that will “take time to tackle.”
However in the immediate future the southern tier of EU nations may yet see a further spike in illegal migrants. In the final Week of April 2015, more than 10,000 refugees from the conflict in Yemen fled in rickety boats across the Bab al Mandab to the Republic of Djibouti placing a further burden on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Djibouti borders Eritrea where a number of migrants have followed the smuggler network to Libya and the dangerous passage to Italy and Malta on fleets of unseaworthy boats.
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 mage large profits. Nature abhors a vacuum when chaos creates rich opportunities to rake in enormous wealth from trafficking illegal migrants. The successful smugglers even alert EU officials that they are bringing another shipload of hapless migrants to fatten their margins from this deadly trade. The EU and the Union for the Mediterranean proposals for dealing with illegal mass immigration will surely cost 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.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.