The deadly business of human smuggling

Der Spiegel reports: Every day, people are dying because of the policy that refugees must first get to Europe before they can apply for asylum. And because of the fact that they are required to remain in the country where they fill out their application and are not allowed to travel further. It is a situation that human smugglers have found to be extremely profitable and one that enables them to charge €300 ($335) to €400 per head for the trip from Budapest to Vienna in a jam-packed truck even though a train ticket doesn’t even cost €50.

Refugees are dying because Europe is failing. But the drama continues. One week after the catastrophe [in which 71 people died] on the A4 in Austria, a new batch of horrific images has emerged, this time of a Syrian boy lying dead on a beach. He drowned while attempting to cross the water from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. His family, too, had put their fates in the hands of human smugglers.

These tragedies serve to illustrate just how great is the desperation gripping the refugees — and how irrepressible is the greed of those in whom they entrust their fates. There are several indications that the deaths of the 71 people inside the truck were not the result of a planned crime but that it was probably the result of an oversight, of stupidity. But it could happen again at any time; that is the incident’s uncomfortable lesson. At least if nothing changes.

Thousands of people continue to cross into Europe every day. In just the first eight months of this year, almost a quarter of a million people crossed the sea to Greece, including young men, families, pregnant women and children from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan and elsewhere. Many are fleeing from bombs and terrorism — and they are prepared to use the last of their money and to entrust their lives to people they don’t know.

In the end, during recent days at least, they get stuck at Keleti Station in Budapest where Hungarian authorities have prevented them from boarding trains to continue their journeys westward. Some refugees have made signs reading: “We love to go to Germany.” At some point, someone starts chanting the German chancellor’s name, quietly at first before getting louder and louder. “An-ge-la! An-ge-la!” Those who pay particularly close attention to the calls for help are waiting outside, next to taxis and minibuses. They are the true profiteers of Europe’s refugee drama.

The trip from Syria to Germany currently costs at least €2,500 per person, with the human smuggling market likely worth several hundred million euros per year. The organization The Migrant’s Files, a consortium of journalists from over 15 European countries, estimates that migrants have paid smugglers around €16 billion since the year 2000. [Continue reading…]

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