From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Sep 14 2011 - 09:51:56 EDT
Gaddafi planned to flood Europe with migrants as final revenge
People-traffickers were ordered to step up exodus
By Kim Sengupta in Tripoli
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
When the Mukhabarat, Libya's dreaded secret police, came for Mustafa Fauzi
his immediate reactions were fear followed by resignation. He had already
undergone a brutal experience in prison for human trafficking and this time
his ordeal was bound to be even worse.
The trepidation rose when his blindfold was removed. Sitting across the
table in the harshly lit bare room, dried blood from past interrogations on
the walls, was the same officer who had been in charge of his previous case.
But, along with the proffered cigarette, the man had surprising news for Mr
Fauzi: not only was he not going to be charged over the latest offence,
there was also an invitation to carry on with his work. Muammar Gaddafi
wanted to send 100,000 African migrants to Europe, he was told, and it was
his patriotic duty to help.
This was at the end of May and Mr Fauzi was among the members of
people-smuggling gangs encouraged to carry out Gaddafi's threat of switching
back on the tap of illegal entrants in retaliation for Nato's backing the
rebels and bombing his forces. The result was a tide of men and women,
infants and the elderly being shipped across the Mediterranean in leaky
boats and the resultant tragedy of dozens of dead bodies washing up on
Europe's southern shores.
"These people were packed up and sent, the government wanted to send as many
as possible so no one cared," Mr Fauzi, 32, told The Independent, with pride
that his group had never lost a "cargo" during many years of operating. "The
prices were really low, instead of say 2,000 dinars (about £1,000) for one
it could be 1,000 dinars or even 500 dinars. There were no bribes to be paid
to officials, so it was all profit. But everyone got careless, they just
wanted to be seen doing what they were asked to do."
Libya's opposition, now forming the new administration, has pledged to stop
the trade in migrants. But Mr Fauzi and others familiar with the business
point to evidence that agents are tapping up the thousands from sub-Saharan
Africa trapped in camps, terrified of persecution by rebels who may accuse
them of being regime mercenaries.
Mr Fauzi insists he has turned his back on his old life and is concentrating
on his day job as an electrician. He has turned a page with the advent of
new Libya and named his daughter – born on the day the rebels came into
Tripoli – Takhbir, the call made in the mosques for people to rise up.
Mr Fauzi was also apprehensive of being a regime collaborator in the
smuggling during the civil war. "The truth is that I did not send anyone at
the time, I never followed the order," he claimed. "The government even
offered to pay the costs of some of the groups. I just did not want to get
involve. But I know some of the rebels are planning to take part in this.
They say it is a good way of getting rid of the blacks."
Mr Fauzi, who leads a middle-class lifestyle in the Ben Ashur district of
Tripoli, refused to disclose how much he made from trafficking. His role in
the syndicate, he said, was to approach black migrant workers, who arrived
in large numbers under the regime, and persuade them to make the journey.
The economies of human trafficking pointed towards the profits which could
be made. "The groups built their own boats and the big ones can take between
300 and 500 people and each group will have many boats," Mr Fauzi said. "The
pilot is very important and he can make 10,000 or 15,000 dinars for each
trip. The rest of the money will be shared between the group depending on
A year ago his syndicate and several others were smashed after Colonel
Gaddafi ordered a crackdown following pleas by the Italian government to
help stem the migrant influx. "They came to my house and arrested me. I was
beaten cruelly and they asked me for all kinds of information.
"I was kept in an underground prison in a very small cell, I could not see
any of the other prisoners, we had to shout messages to each other. My
family did not know whereI was.
"I was told that we had to stop the business to Europe because that was the
government's decision. I would go for trial and I would get a long
In the end Mr Fauzi pulled strings, paid out cash to officials and was freed
after three months. "I went back to smuggling because of the money, that was
foolish. But money will always be there in the business and that is why it
cannot be stopped."
The passengers, if and when the trade restarts in earnest, will not just be
from the Tripoli refugee camps. Despite the beatings and executions of black
men by the rebels a steady stream has started to make its way from the south
"They say blacks are being killed as suspected Gaddafi fighters, but I say
we all have a destiny," said Sule, a 25-year-old Nigerian. "I see this war
as an opportunity that I cannot let pass if I want to make it to Europe. I
will always regret it if I do not take this chance."
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