Monday, 5 October 2015

Migrant Crisis: A Few More Comments

Don’t Rubbish the Migrants

I’ve heard criticism made of the “jungle” in Calais. Why don’t they at least try and be tidy and clear the rubbish away? Yes, serious criticism of all the heaps of garbage that there are, without stopping to think why that should be so. In fact, the general comment from those is that the people at Calais just don’t care – like litter louts writ large, they couldn’t care less about piles of rubbish.

So it was good to read Glenys Newt on the subject, as she makes it clear why the rubbish does not get cleared easily, and answers those questions:

“I had gone as part of an organised clean up operation and together with about 120 people we set about with bin bags, shovels, rakes and a fortified sense of humour to try and clear up some of the piles of rotting rubbish that has accumulated.”

“Why don’t the people clear it up themselves you might ask? For a start there is not a single bin in the whole place and with around 5000 people sharing the space it doesn’t take long for rubbish to accumulate. The local authorities refuse to clear any of the rubbish away although by the end of the week we had forged relations with the local authorities and they actually came and cleared some of the 1500 bin bags of rubbish that we filled in just 2 days.”

“There are 2 industrial sized skips but they are a long walk for most people and they had no bin bags to put rubbish in anyway. As soon as we started we were immediately surrounded by people wanting to help. We handed out thousands of bin bags to people who were so grateful that we were coming to try and improve the squalor in which these people live. We cleared away areas where children were playing in raw sewage. We cleared the water pipe areas where sewage, rats, rotting food and rubbish all mix. Attempts had been made to burn piles of rubbish but piles of wet clothes and tins do not burn easily.”

Need for Clamp Down on People Smugglers

The boats coming from Turkey to Lesbos are designed to hold eight to 10 people, but smugglers pack them with up to 60 migrants, each paying as much as $1,500 to make the trip. The smugglers do not make the journey. They choose a migrant to steer the boat, point out a direction — sometimes a light in the distance, if at night — and send them on their way.

If people are smuggling heroin or cocaine and hard drugs into a country, they face both arrests and heavy fines and prison sentences. There are intelligence services working behind the scenes to determine what is going on, and make those arrests. It doesn’t stop all drugs smuggling, but knowing you will be spending the next ten years in prison sends a strong message to others. It usually makes headline news.

In fact, many of the traffickers used to smuggle illegal drugs, but have shifted their focus to people since the refugee crisis began.

Austria has recently arrested five people smugglers. "We are seeing that the smuggler gangs are acting in ever more brutal and ruthless ways and we must counter them with stronger and harder measures," said Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

In August, Libyan authorities arrested three people on suspicion of involvement in launching a boat packed with migrants that sank off the country's Mediterranean coast, killing up to 200 people.

The German "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper reported on Sunday that more than 2,300 suspected smugglers had been arrested in Germany since the beginning of the year - a 40-percent increase on the same period last year.

A week ago, the European Union on Monday announced that it will be able to go after suspected migrant trafficking and smuggling vessels in the international waters of the Mediterranean as of next week.

As the New York Times reports:

“Monday's EU statement said Operation Sophia will allow naval personnel of EU nations "to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking on the high seas, in line with international law" as of Oct. 7.”

The Daily Beast reports that:

“Since the beginning of the year, Italian authorities say they have arrested more than 950 human traffickers, including one who was commandeering a boat that went down with as many as 800 people on board last April. “

“Many of the smugglers go on trial in Italy and are given harsh jail sentences. Others are let go due to lack of evidence. Almost all apply for political asylum once they are rescued. “

After a 12 week mission, the crew of the LÉ Niamh handed over to Italian authorities around 30 people smugglers during the ship’s tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea, which resulted in the rescue of 4,127 refugees.

Apparently Italian authorities said the increasing number of people arrested for allegedly smuggling refugees across the Mediterranean in latest months had a role in making traffickers change their routes to avoid the country. Intercepted phone conversations between people suspected of leading migrant smuggling rings showed that traffickers worried about the increasing danger of being detected and arrested once landed in Italy.

Egypt is now taking a very hard line. A 35 page bill sets out measures against smugglers. Smugglers would face life sentences if anyone died during a journey that he or she ran or organized. The government also sets a higher fine for these cases - the equivalent of the smuggler’s profit. Those found to be complicit in any way could also face time in prison.

But there is a paucity of news about fines or prison sentences anywhere on the media. That must be happening, and only once we get solid information about successful prosecutions can we assess exactly how measures are taking are working.

Moreover, as the case of Italy shows, where news is global and travels fast, that could well affect the volume of migrant smugglers, and some may even pull back out of the market. There needs to be the same level of intelligence and evidence gathering that goes into drugs and the corresponding money laundering.

Attacking the smugglers at both ends of the scale: by heavy fines and imprisonment, and on the other, by freezing assets, may not prevent people smuggling, but it would be a start. These are callous people, who have no regard for human life, and seek to profit from the misery and suffering of others. It is about time justice was meted out to them.


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