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Migrants from Libyan coast already up by 40 percent

The migrants pouring into Europe are crossing the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy with a criminal industry thriving and the European agency tasked to stop them is not optimistic about stemming the tide.

Published: June 14, 2017, 12:35 pm

    Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri admitted in an interview with AFP that those who arrive from Africa via the central Mediterranean and Libya, have increased by more than 40 percent, and most come from west Africa. They are Senegalese, Guineans, Nigerians. In 2016 they already totalled 180 000.

    “It’s not the poorest who leave, because they have to be able to pay the smugglers,” said Leggeri and added that they were mainly men.

    According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of arrivals in Greece have dropped, but the wave arriving from north Africa have increased. By the beginning of April 2017, “some 36,000 migrants had arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year, or an increase of 43 percent over the same period last year,” according to Frontex.

    Leggeri said the Mediterranean crossing is run by criminal networks, and the network chiefs “likely include people who previously worked in the police force” in Libya.

    In a recent report by the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol, gangs smuggling migrants to or within Europe made 4.7 billion-5.7 billion euros in 2015. The profits are invested in “drug trafficking, arms trafficking, or even terrorism financing — we can’t exclude it,” Leggeri said.

    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), similar to the visa-free Schengen zone, mean that people can travel freely within the zone for a modest fee of around 20 euros.

    Once the migrants arrive in Niamey, capital of Niger, smugglers are paid up to 150 euros each to reach the north of the country and the Libyan border, while the crossing to Europe can cost up to 1000 euros. The journey over to the EU on an inflatable boat only costs 300 euros but are particularly risky.

    The east Africa route is more expensive where the fee can run to 3000 euros, “from the Horn of Africa all the way to Italy,” Leggeri said. The deluge of migrants is not about to end, the Frontex chief believes. They “will move, as they always have in human history”.

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