Migrant smuggling is one of the most complex yet most deadly crime rings in the world

Welcome to “the land of opportunity.” But scratch the surface in the fragile Sahel belt, especially in its heartland, Libya, and the bargain unravels fast. The United Nations estimates that 60,000 people made the trip north through the conflict-torn country this year alone. They paid thousands to guide them and then some for help into Europe, and most were never heard from again.

In a best-case scenario, many are now in camps, just across the borders from Libya, where the violence, hunger and fear are seeping into those already living in a challenging climate.

Between January and August, the International Organization for Migration counted 5,663 deaths among migrants crossing the Mediterranean overland — many of them Eritreans trying to escape political oppression, according to Amnesty International.

An analysis conducted by the Swedish outfit Indevelopment has shown that 90 percent of money spent by migrants on smugglers in Libya is likely to have gone to perpetuate the cycle of violence that is driving people to leave their homes.

IOM has estimated the total cost of illegal immigration to the European Union from North Africa, including Libya, at $6.6 billion. But during the same period, the IOM found that at least 65,000 people arrived in the EU without passage to the United Kingdom, and most of the smuggling paid for by the migrants paid for arms and ammunition and fighters to cross the Sahara to reach the Libyan coast.

The report provides a glimpse of an often secretive international crime. Those who make the journey often lack money, don’t have an I.D. or they have one with a fake name, may have been threatened or mistreated by authorities and often the smugglers don’t know where the migrants are going.

Those who stay in Libya after paying smugglers are subject to human trafficking, torture, rape and death.

It’s estimated that up to 120,000 people may be in Libya today, waiting to make the journey north. But the rate of arrivals has fallen since the IOM, which has special channels to bring in refugees and migrants, began releasing statistics back in 2009.

Out of a total of 174,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East who have tried to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, the IOM estimates only 62,000 have succeeded.

In other words, only around a third of the people who try are successful.

At the crisis summit in September in Bern, UN leaders agreed on a plan that includes the distribution of $88 million in funds to boost security in the Libyan Coast Guard, fund health, education and rescue operations and hire more staff for the IOM.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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