Mediterranean migrants: Facebook smugglers offer under-3s go free with ‘TripAdvisor-style feedback’ for voyage to Europe

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Written for: IBTimesUK

Facebook p[ages used by human traffickers

(Human traffickers use images of flashy cruise liners to advertise the deadly journey to Europe)

People smugglers are using Facebook to advertise transport for Syrian refugees from Turkey to Britain for up to £10,000 ($16,000, €14,000) per person.

On Arabic profile pages littered with images of luxurious cruise liners and even testimonials by former clients, smugglers promise routes from Turkey to Greece, Italy and the UK, and list telephone numbers for refugees to contact.

One smuggler contacted by IBTimes UK said he could arrange transport from Izmir in Turkey by boat to Greece for a cost of £1,720 and then an onward flight to the UK.

When asked about the ability of Syrian refugees to reach the UK, he said, in broken Arabic: “We offer flights from Greece to the UK, very easy.”

Asked what documentation a refugee might need, he said: “No passport needed, we do everything” but added that price for travel from Greece to the UK was considerably more expensive, at €15,000.

The migrant crisis has been in the spotlight after almost 700 people died on 19 April in what was called the Mediterranean’s worst disaster.

Reports say 2015 has been the worst year yet for the migrant deaths, with 1,500 killed since the start of the year. Many of the migrants are from Africa and the war-torn countries of the Middle East, mostly Syrians fleeing the five-year-long bloody civil war.

IBTimes UK called smugglers pretending to be a Syrian refugee in Turkey looking to get to Europe and ideally the UK, raising concerns about the recent spike in deaths.

But traffickers said the trip was safe and went into detail about exactly how refugees can evade the authorities and how much it would cost.

One Turkish man quoted the rate from Turkey to Greece as £1,460 per person but said children under the age of three travelled for free and under-12s were half price.

Another man who spoke only broken Arabic said: “You leave your money in the office, and we take you to a Greek Island by boat, 30 minutes. You stay there for a day or two, all costs on us including accommodation… then five or six-day travel by boat to Italy.”

He added it is also possible to stay in Greece and not continue the journey to Italy, saying with confidence: “Greece have announced new laws that will provide asylum for Syrian refugees, no need to worry.”

On the safety of the trip, he said: “It will be a small yacht with around 70 to 80 people on board. You are with other families, sometimes five sometimes eight, not alone, don’t worry.”

Not all of the services offered by traffickers involve travel by boat, though. One post from 23 March announces new travel services by air to Canada, Holland, France and Britain.

The price quoted for air travel to Britain was a staggering €14,000, the equivalent of £10,029 per person. Children under 10 are given the concession of half that price.

“The way [this works] is through a regime-issued [Syrian] visa to be collected from the embassy, payment is at arrival in the main office [in Turkey],” the site claimed.

A regime-issued passport for Syrians means the Assad government, still battling an uprising led by rebel forces since 2011, has given its stamp of approval for a person to leave the country. Rebel fighters and their families as well as political dissidents are not allowed this luxury.

In the review section of the page, other accounts, mainly personal, use the space not to review the services of this smuggling company but to advertise their own services arguing competitive prices. “There is a trip from Istanbul to Libya by plane… once you reach Libya you take a boat to Italy,” one profile writes in Arabic providing a phone number for more details.

But a comment on this post shows the grim reality that not all these accounts can be trusted: “They are entrappers, they entrapped me twice,” with another comment posting: “And we die halfway through the sea,” in reference to the recent crisis with the capsizing of a boat carrying immigrants off the coast of Italy killing hundreds.

Syrians fearing for their lives and the lives of their families still look to these services as an escape to freedom in Europe. Out of the estimated nine million Syrians who have fled since March 2011, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states that around 150,000 have declared asylum in the European Union. But Syrians have been encouraged by the pledge of the UN member states to resettle a further 33,000 people.

Britain has come under scrutiny by human rights groups as the number of refugees accepted into the UK since the start of the Syrian crisis is just 143.

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And the UK jumps onto the bandwagon of intervention in Mali.

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As expected, the UK was not far behind getting involved in this Afghanistan-like drama. History seems to be repeating itself, the BBC article read

“The UK had already said it would contribute to the training mission and has now promised to deploy about 350 British military personnel to Mali and West Africa in a supporting role for French forces.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21240676

this sounds very similar to when the UK deployed troops to Afghanistan to ‘contribute in the training mission’ and ‘offer a supporting role’ to American troops. I know i’ve mentioned this in my previous post, but as the events unfold and the story develops the parallels drawn become more and more evident. 

Have they learnt nothing? There are still problems closer to home that deserve the attention of the Government; unemployment being one, and also the continuing economic problems this country is facing. We may have supposedly come out of the recession alive, but these problems will continue to play a part in pulling the UK down. Unnecessary interventions in countries on a different continent is not where the people want their tax payers money to go. They may help build propaganda of a united front against ‘terrorism’ for the government, which is what the UK wants out of all of this isn’t it? 

Mali and The West.

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(French troops in Mali)

This is not very recent news, but I felt that it is a story that is continuing to have an effect on the politics in not just Mali, but of Africa as a whole, and the role Western powers will play.

France’s military intervention in Mali is said to have been a result of the rise of Islamists in the region and their aim to control it. This sounds quite familiar, when was the last time a Western Power intervened militarily in a country in order to stop the rise of the so called ‘Islamists’? Yes, Afghanistan. And how did that end? It still hasn’t. Mali is quickly becoming France’s Afghanistan. This was seen quickly after France’s decision in Algeria, as the hostage crisis was said to have been a response to Mali. So a short time after the West’s intervention, a crisis occurs leaving in its wake civilian deaths, this just begs the question, what more will have to happen before they realise they made a ‘mistake’ and call for the withdrawal of their troops after what they will call ‘a successful mission’ to avoid further embarrassment. However, it is interesting to point out that the Algerian hostage crisis was used as proof by the West that intervention was necessary, and not in fact as a dire result of their intervention, and what they would have called in different circumstances ‘collateral damage’. But seeing as the Algerian governments rash use of power in an attempt to rescue the hostages ended up in the death of British and other citizens, it was not praised for having ended the crisis and said that any deaths would have been necessary for the wider good. It was instead seen as an act of terrorism that could justify the West’s intervention in Africa.

Many have raised the question of why, if the West was really interested in protecting civilians from persecution in Africa, did they choose now to intervene, when the whole region has seen violent uprisings and revolutions from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Libya and still until now in Syria. Was it because they were afraid of the reaction of the Arab world? Or was it because they didn’t initially support the uprisings, and because they weren’t uprisings against Islamists, but regimes that they themselves used to support and encourage that they didn’t intervene militarily? Or was it, better yet, that the Western powers had nothing to gain from these countries, unlike the possible materialistic gain that can be achieved from Mali’s various gold mines? Some may argue none of the above , but that instead the events happened too fast for an intervention to be worthwhile.

But now that France’s Hollande has gained a better image from his bold intervention decision, who knows where and when this will end. Will it expand, with the help of the US or even the UK to regain a western foothold in Africa, into Algeria, or even across eastern Africa. We can just hold our breaths and hope for a time when military interventions by the West take place across parts of the World every couple of years with hidden agendas and ulterior motives.

Just a thought.