Saharan Tribal Chiefs Pocket European Cash Reward But Don’t Stop a Million Refugees
Some 60 southern Libyan tribal chiefs involved in smuggling migrants to Europe were recently brought to Rome and offered European rewards – in the form of financial and development aid – against a pledge to staunch the flood of around a million migrants on their way to the Libyan coast.
But the traffic continues non-stop.
The three main tribes engaged in this massive human smuggling industry are the Tuareg, the Tebu and the Awlad Suleiman. For the right rewards, their leaders offered to lock down Libya’s southern border with Niger, More than 5,000km long, it is the main transit route for migrants from West Africa and other places to reach the boats carrying them across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Those chiefs admitted that since Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in 201, the Libyan economy is drowning and around 15 percent the country earn their living from migrant smuggling. It has grown into the main source of income for many families.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal that the sums which the three tribes have cleared from human trafficking have reached a cool billion dollars. They estimate that a family engaged in the migrant trade may earn between $600 and $3,750 per month. Italian intelligence investigations have discovered that, by now, the African refugee machinery in Africa is a well-oiled machine. It employs thousands of tribesmen across 5,000km of forbidding and impenetrable desert and mountains, which would be impassable to regular armies or European police seeking to control the flood.
The Italians reckon that to effectively stem the non-stop stream of migrants and bring it under control, Europe needs to set up a joint command center equipped with sophisticated intelligence tools, such as satellites, and supported by at least 150,000 air force, navy and ground troops trained for operating in this terrain.
Since this is just a pipe dream, more than a million migrants, having left their homes in remote parts of Africa are scattered in subhuman conditions along the thousands of kilometers of the smuggling routes. They are waiting to be led to the Mediterranean coast of Libya and placed aboard primitive boats bound for Europe. Many will perish en route.
Since Italy is the closest European destination for these migrants, the Rome government initiated two projects for reducing the traffic. One was to build accommodation and create jobs in the eastern Libyan Fezzan province, as inducements for the refugees to settle down there and give up their perilous voyage to Europe.
It did not work. Neither did the second plan to fork out substantial cash payments to tribal chiefs for halting the traffic. They simply pocketed the cash and kept going.
An acute issue related to the uncontrolled movement of migrants is its potential as a carrier of terrorists into the heart of the West. The Islamic State and Al Qaeda are making good use of the people-smuggling routes for planting terrorist cells close to their targets, and for moving jihadist fighters and the tools of their trade across wide swaths of Africa and the Middle East, undetected by counter-terror agencies.
The proposed anti-terror joint force of the Sahel G5 – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – finally received a boost this month when the European Union pledged $56 million to bolster their security, following visits to the region by the French and German defense ministers. However, the joint force is not expected to be operational before late 2017.