Human Smugglers using Social Media to Recruit Migrants

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Despite the EU’s hard talk on targeting human traffickers in Libya and striking boats used to carry asylum seekers to Europe, people smugglers have not relented in their drive to entice migrants into embarking on trips to Italy, which often end in death for many.

An advert posted online in late April,says a trip to Italy from Zuwara, a port city in northwestern Libya would cost asylum seekers $1,000 (€890), but children travel for free.

The once discreet smugglers along the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean are openly publicising their contact details, prices and schedules on Twitter and Facebook to attract migrants.

Moreover, the euphemistic language and imagery used is more akin to travel agencies and tourism brochures.

“journey from Zuwara in a 26 metre boat with a Tunisian Captain with a Thuraya mobile (satellite phone),” adding that the trip will take eight hours but “it will take another two hours to enter Italian territorial water and for the Italian boats to arrive”.

The advert – entitled ‘Trip to Italy; beginning of the week’ – was posted just days after up to 900 asylum seekers died at sea after their captain accidentally crashed their boat against a merchant rescue ship.

Meanwhile, Libya’s interim government has refused to endorse EU’s plan to launch military operations to identify, capture and destroy boats before they are used by migrant smugglers. The EU says it’s prepared to take certain steps before the council adopts any resolution authorising the operation. Libya’s internationally recognised government says it would only welcome the idea if it was done with the coordination of the relevant authorities in Libya.

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