300 Migrants Arrested Over UN Camp Fire

 

Niger police have arrested more than 300 Sudanese asylum seekers after accusing them of burning down a UN refugee camp in the north of the country, prosecutors said on Monday.

The Niger town of Agadez has become a major transit point for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa trying to reach Europe and for those escaping chaos in neighbouring Libya.

Agadez prosecutor Seyni Saidou told state television 335 asylum seekers had been arrested on Saturday after they were identified as taking part in burning their camp.

City officials said “incidents” erupted after security forces dislodged hundreds of asylum seekers from the local offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where they were holding a sit-in to demand refugee status and placement in Europe.

“Once they were brought back in buses, they first set fire to the camp” before attacking security forces who escorted them, one official said.

According to a report by local authorities, 290 homes and the infirmary were burned down.

At least two people were injured by the demonstrators, who “broke bus windows”.

Charges include unarmed assembly on a public highway, rebellion by deliberate destruction of property and arson, prosecutors said.

Some 1,400 Sudanese who fled insecurity and slavery in Libya since 2017 live around the camp about 10 km from Agadez. Since 2018, the Sudanese have been demonstrating regularly in Niamey and Agadez for quicker settlement in host countries, especially in Europe.

Hundreds of refugees, particularly Ethiopians and Eritreans living in Niamey, have been resettled in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.

AFP

Eight Migrants Drown Near Turkey Coast

 

Eight people drowned after a boat carrying around 15 migrants sank off the coast of Turkey, the interior ministry said Friday.

The incident happened on Wednesday night in the Aegean Sea, around eight kilometres from the town of Fethiye in southwest Turkey, it said in a statement.

The bodies of five men and three women were found by coastguards. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

Turkey hosts some four million refugees, mostly from Syria, and is an important transit point for migrants trying to reach Europe.

The number of crossings has greatly diminished after Turkey vowed to stop unauthorised boats under a 2016 agreement with the European Union.

AFP

300 Migrants Rescued Off Spain At Christmas

File Photo: Migrants

 

Around 100 migrants were rescued off the coast of Spain on Thursday, adding to around another 200 plucked off makeshift boats on Christmas Day, Spain’s maritime rescue service said.

More than half of them were found off the Costa Blanca on Spain’s southeastern coast, with 10 people rescued just before dawn, among them eight men, a woman and a child.

Later in the morning, rescuers saved 16 men off a boat near Torrevieja, while another 12 men were rescued from a dinghy off Xabia, some 45 kilometres (27 miles) up the coast from Benidorm.

And on Spain’s southern coast, 17 men were found in waters off Cabo de Gata near Almeria while another man was found floating on what rescuers described as “an inflatable toy boat” in the Motril area, with his friend feared drowned.

Another 39 people reached the shore at Punta Jandia on the southwestern tip of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, the spokesman said.

There was no immediate information on the nationalities of those rescued.

Some 200 others were rescued on Christmas Day in a number of separate operations off the coast of Spain and Morocco.

About 120 of them were picked up around the Zaffarin islands off Morocco and the tiny islet of Alboran, Spain’s coastguard said.

Several other dinghies were found off the southeastern coast of Spain, off Gibraltar and near the Canary Islands.

So far this year, at least 1,250 men, women and children have died attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean, the UN’s International Organization for Migration said in a statement correct to December 20.

Seven Migrants Die In Turkey Boat Capsize

Van province is near the border with Iran.

 

Seven migrants were killed after their boat sank in Lake Van in eastern Turkey on Thursday, the official Anadolu news agency reported.

The boat carrying illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan capsized as it was nearing the shore, Anadolu said. Their final destination was not immediately clear.

Turkish authorities said they rescued 64 people.

Van province is near the border with Iran.

Turkey hosts more than four million refugees, including some 3.6 million Syrians who fled the conflict raging in their country since 2011.

The flow of refugees crossing to Europe from Turkey has dropped since an agreement concluded in 2016 between Ankara and the EU.

AFP

Dozens Of Migrants Drown As Boat Sinks Off Mauritania

 

 

 

At least 58 migrants drowned as their boat sank near the Mauritanian coast after a week at sea, the International Organization for Migration said Thursday.

The UN agency said another 83 people swam to shore, while survivors said at least 150 people including women and children were aboard the vessel, which had set sail from The Gambia on November 27.

They said the boat was running low on fuel as it was nearing the coast of the northwestern African nation.

“The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,” said Laura Lungarotti, IOM’s chief of mission in Mauritania.

“Our common priority is to take care of all those who survived and bring them the support they need,” she added.

READ ALSO: Six Dead, Two Missing After Gas Explosion In Poland

The injured are being treated in hospital in Nouadhibou, Mauritania’s westernmost town on the Atlantic coast, the IOM statement said.

Mauritanian authorities are in contact with Gambian consular services “to ensure that the necessary support is provided to the migrants”, the statement said.

The Gambian Ambassador to Mauritania is headed to Nouadhibou, it added.

Seven Bodies Of Migrants On Capsized Boat Found Off Italy

File: This grab from a video taken by Local Team shows migrants rescued for days by NGO Proactiva Open Arms charity ship, being rescued by a Spanish patrol boat after throwing themselves in the water to try and swim to the nearby Italian island of Lampedusa in a desperate move after days stuck on board, on August 20, 2019. 
LOCALTEAM / AFP

 

Rescue authorities found the bodies of seven migrants, including five women, after their boat capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa, coastguard officials said Sunday.

A patrol boat recovered the bodies of three of the women and customs workers found two more washed ashore after a vessel with some 150 people aboard went down Saturday, the coastguard said.

Another two bodies were found Saturday on the beach at Cala Galera on the south side of the island.

Survivors had said late Saturday around 20 people were missing after coast guards reported rescuing nearly 150 migrants when their vessel overturned around 1.5 miles (1.8 kilometres) off the coast.

READ ALSO: A Decade Of Plane Crashes In Residential Areas That Shook The World

The coastguard said rescue operations had been complicated by rough seas “but also owing to a large number of people who fell into the water simultaneously”.

Italian media reported one Eritrean man and a Libyan man as saying they had lost their wives.

The public prosecutor in the Sicilian port of Agrigento announced an investigation had been opened into the incident.

The SOS Mediterranee and Medecins sans Frontieres NGOs said meanwhile Sunday that 213 migrants rescued in recent days in the Sicilian port of Messina by humanitarian vessel Ocean Viking had disembarked

Spanish NGO Open Arms, which Thursday rescued 73 migrants in a separate operation, meanwhile urged European governments to authorise “immediately” the migrants’ disembarkation in a safe port, citing a “critical” situation.

“We continue to demand that people’s rights, established under international conventions and maritime law, be respected,” tweeted Open Arms’ chef de mission Riccardo Gatti.

Ocean Viking made similar demands as both NGOs warned there was an urgent need for a coordinated urgent response to deal with the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the region.

AFP

Migrants Found Alive In Refrigerated Truck On Dutch-UK Ferry

A bus with refugees drives away from the DFDS ferry, in the harbour of Vlaardingen, The Netherlands on November 19, 2019, after 25 stowaways were found onboard. The ferry, en route to the UK, returned to The Netherlands after the stowaways were found. PHOTO: MARCO DE SWART / ANP / AFP

 

A ferry crew found 25 migrants in a refrigerated container on a boat sailing from the Netherlands to Britain on Tuesday, emergency services said.

The cargo vessel bound for Felixstowe returned to the Dutch port of Vlaardingen, near Rotterdam, as soon as the stowaways were found, they said in a statement.

The people found in the container received medical attention at the port and two were taken to hospital for further treatment for possible hypothermia.

The discovery comes the month after 39 Vietnamese people were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain, again laying bare the risks of illegal migrant routes to Europe.

“On board a ship it turned out that several people were found in a cooling container. The ship returned to the harbour,” said the Rotterdam region emergency services on Twitter.

“The 25 people were taken off the ship and given the medical care they need. Earlier the message came from the ship that no people died.

“Two people were transported to hospital for extra medical care. Twenty-three people were transferred to a police location after a medical check-up.”

DFDS Seaways, which operates the cargo ferry, said that the migrants had come on board on a lorry trailer, De Telegraaf newspaper said.

The driver of the truck had been arrested, it added.

A bus took away the mainly male group, some of whom were wrapped in silver thermal blankets.

Their nationalities were not immediately known.

The mayor of Vlaardingen, Annemiek Jetten, said “more and more” people were trying to cross the Channel and had not been put off by the deaths of the Vietnamese migrants.

“I think people are so desperate that they keep trying, despite the tragic events in the UK not so long ago,” Jetten told broadcaster NOS.

She added that it was not clear if more people were trying to get to Britain before immigration laws become tougher after its scheduled exit from the EU next year.

Separately on Tuesday Dutch border police intercepted a bus carrying 65 Moldovan nationals including children who were planning to claim asylum, Dutch media reported.

AFP

Nigerian ‘Sex Slavery’ Ring Goes On Trial In France

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

 

Twenty-four suspected members of a sex trafficking ring accused of forcing Nigerian women into prostitution in France go on trial Wednesday, the latest case to highlight the growing use of Nigerian migrants as sex slaves in Europe.

Nigeria was the main country of origin of the migrants arriving across the Mediterranean to Italy in 2016 and 2017, though their numbers have since dropped.

Many of the arrivals were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex on arrival to repay their debts.

Nigerians now outnumber Chinese or Eastern European sex workers on the streets of France and some other European countries.

Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based female-led pimping ring known as the “Authentic Sisters” were sentenced to up to 11 years in prison for forcing girls into sex slavery in France.

Many were themselves former trafficking victims-turned-perpetrators.

READ ALSO: Modern Slavery: Kaduna Govt Unites 140 Victims With Families

Similar gangs have also been dismantled in Italy and Britain.

The investigation in Lyon, where police estimate half the city’s sex workers are Nigerian, began after authorities received a tip about a Nigerian pastor accused of exploiting several sex workers who lived in apartments he owned.

The pastor, Stanley Omoregie, has denied the charges, which include aggravated pimping and slavery.

But in the transcript of a conversation submitted to the court, he is heard saying he wanted “those with beautiful bodies, who can be controlled, not those that cause problems.”

The prosecution has presented him as the kingpin of a family-based syndicate made up of 10 women and 14 men, including one of Europe’s most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of recruiting destitute women in Nigeria for the sex trade in Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier.

Edosomwan, who is believed to be on the run in the Benelux countries, Italy or Germany, will be tried in absentia.

From prostitution to pimping

The UN has estimated that 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy — their first port of call in Europe — are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.

The accused in Lyon cover the entire gamut of sex trafficking activities, from iron-fisted “madams” and violent pimps as well as drivers of the vans in which the women perform sexual acts, and those tasked with laundering the proceeds of the trafficking.

Prosecutors estimate that 17 alleged victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to 150,000 euros ($166,000) a month for the syndicate, selling sex for as little as 10 euros.

Most of the women come from Benin City, capital of Nigeria’s southern Edo State, a human trafficking hotbed with a long history of dispatching women and men to Europe to earn money to send back home.

Many told investigators they had taken part in “juju” or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they promised to repay the money they owed for their passage to Europe.

Many of the woman took the perilous migrant trail across the Sahara Desert to Libya and then across the Mediterranean to Italy before winding up in Lyon.

Among the accused is a 28-year-old former prostitute who was herself released from sex slavery after paying off her debts and who in turn brought over another young woman from Nigeria.

Months of police wiretaps and surveillance led to the arrest of the suspects between September 2017 and January 2018.

They risk 10 years in jail if convicted.

Over 40 Migrants Found Alive In Refrigerated Truck – Police

People hold a banner reading “Illegal immigrants out” as right-wing extremists protest against the transfer of migrants from the Greek islands to sites on the mainland on November 3, 2019, in Thessaloniki.
Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP

 

Forty-one migrants were found alive in a refrigerated truck in northern Greece on Monday, said police, who arrested the driver.

The migrants, of apparent Afghan origin, were mostly in good condition. Seven of them were given first aid in hospital, the police said.

“The truck contained men and boys. Identifying their nationality will require a couple of days,” a police source told AFP.

The truck was immobilised by police on the Egnatia motorway between the towns of Xanthi and Komotini.

The driver, a man from Georgia, was arrested.

The discovery came after 39 people, all believed to be Vietnamese nationals, were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain last month, highlighting the risks of illegal migrant routes to Europe, even for those avoiding perilous travel by sea.

Another 31 Pakistani migrants were found on Saturday hidden in a lorry on a motorway near the French-Italian border.

Over 30 Pakistani Migrants Found In Lorry In France

 

More than 30 migrants from Pakistan have been found hidden in a lorry in southern France, prosecutors said Saturday.

They said the driver, who was also from Pakistan, was detained.

The discovery came after 39 people, all believed to be Vietnamese nationals, were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain last month, laying bare again the risks of illegal migrant routes to Europe.

The group of 31 Pakistani migrants was discovered during a routine check on a motorway near the Italian border on Friday, French prosecutors said.

The migrants, who included three teenagers, were handed over to the Italian authorities in accordance with immigration procedures.

“We will try and establish if we can trace it back to a network and backers as we always do in this type of case,” the prosecutors’ office in the southeastern city of Nice said.

AFP

Bored And Broke, Vietnam Migrants Risk Lives For Riches In Europe

 

Young, aspirational and poor Vietnamese are risking their lives to travel to Europe, taking on large debts to join well-worn trafficking routes in the hope of a better future thousands of miles from their rural homes.

The dangers of illegal crossings into Europe were laid bare this week when 31 men and eight women were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain.

British police initially said the victims were Chinese, but it is now feared most were from Vietnam.

Many Vietnamese migrants come from just a handful of central provinces, where smugglers prey on disaffected youth lured by the prospect of overseas work.

Bored by village life and fed up with a lack of opportunity, the allure of overseas riches is enough to tempt many to embark on the risky trips.

Many belong to Vietnam’s booming, social-media obsessed population of under 30s, often following relatives or friends to the UK, France and Germany — Facebook posts from abroad and money sent home are often proof enough that the journey is worth it.

Greased by smuggling networks with links in remote Vietnamese towns and throughout eastern Europe, migrants can pay up to $40,000 for a ticket out of poverty, borrowing from relatives or taking huge loans.

“Smugglers are really saying that the UK is the ‘El Dorado’,” Paris-based migration expert Nadia Sebtaoui told AFP.

They are often promised princely salaries of up to £3,000 pounds ($3,800) a month, around three times the annual income in Vietnam’s poorest provinces.

But the reality is often far different.

Some end up owing thousands of dollars to smugglers and money lenders who front cash for the treacherous journeys. Saddled by huge debts, many face the risk of exploitation along the way.

“They really have a lack of awareness on the reality of working in Europe,” said Sebtaoui, adding that many take under-the-table jobs as manicurists or cannabis farmers, or even sex workers.

A town transformed 

Just a few provinces in central Vietnam — Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh — supply most illegal migrants, according to a report by Anti-Slavery International, ECPAT UK and Pacific Links Foundation.

The region has been largely overlooked by Vietnam’s breakneck economic growth of the past decade, and for most young people the only jobs on offer are in factories, construction or on the fields.

Meanwhile, migrant success stories ricochet across many small towns, where remittances have transformed the homes and aspirations of many.

“We live on money sent from our people abroad,” said the uncle of Nguyen Dinh Tu, a 27-year-old man feared to have died in the ill-fated truck.

In his village Phu Xuan, once a poor farming community in Nghe An province, signs of that wealth abound.

Newly-renovated brick homes have replaced shacks. Bicycles have been upgraded for motorbikes and cars, and a trendy bubble tea shop recently opened along the main road.

“The money sent from our people abroad has changed the face of this village. That’s why young ones just leave,” said Tu’s uncle, sitting in the new home his missing nephew helped to finance at a cost of nearly $13,000.

That’s a huge sum in Nghe An province, where the average annual per capita income is around $1,200, well below the national average of about $2,400.

 ‘I’ll be lucky’ 

In this part of Vietnam, it’s not hard to find someone who can help you get to Europe — for a price.

Russia is easy enough to get to — a tourist visa or fake passport often does the trick — and then criminal networks dotted across eastern Europe help migrants along, often for additional fees.

Vietnamese communities took root in eastern Europe after the Vietnam War, some moving over as part of a Soviet labour scheme, others as war refugees.

Most migrants continue their westwards journey overland, with those headed for the UK waiting in makeshift camps in northern France for truck to take them across.

For that they pay smugglers for a “VIP transfer” — a guaranteed spot on a truck billed as the more comfortable route, said Sebtaoui, who has worked with Vietnamese migrants in France.

The migrants on the ill-fated truck found this week might have paid thousands of dollars for a spot in the refrigerated trailer.

Others try their luck by squeezing themselves in the arches above truck wheels, an extremely risky passage.

But tragedy is often not a deterrent. Even if many of the 39 dead are confirmed to be Vietnamese, it might not be enough to stop future migrants from taking the same journey.

“If someone’s really desperate and if their life seems hopeless… they may still think ‘I’ll be lucky,'” said Michael Brosowski, founder of Vietnam-based anti-trafficking NGO Blue Dragon.

Migrants Found Safe In Two Trucks In Belgium

Belgium’s map

 

Twenty migrants were found in good health in two separate trucks in Belgium on Saturday, according to local prosecutors.

Eleven African men, women and children — mainly from Eritrea — were found in a truck in the city of Saint-Trond, 65 kilometres (40 miles) east of Brussels, the Limbourg prosecutors said.

The truck, en route to the United Kingdom, stopped for a mechanical problem at a garage when the migrants were found.

Meanwhile, police also found nine men hidden in a truck in Bruges, in northeastern Belgium, en route to the port of Zeebrugge.

The men, who said they were Iraqi nationals, were also found in good health, according to the prosecutor of West Flanders quoted by the Belga news agency.

Because of its proximity to the UK, Belgium is frequently used as a route for migrants and trafficking networks.

Thirty-nine people were found dead this week in a refrigerated truck near London whose container had arrived from Zeebrugge.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the case.

Police on Tuesday also arrested three men of Iraqi origin suspected of trafficking 16 people in a van in the north western port city of Ghent, according to the Antwerp public prosecutor’s office.

AFP