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

We Have Saved N1.4bn, Arrested Over 460 Smugglers, Migrants Since Border Closure – Customs CG

A file photo of Customs operatives.

 

 

The Nigeria Customs Service says Nigeria has saved N1.4 billion naira since the partial closure of the nation’s borders.

Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), announced this while addressing a news conference on Monday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

According to him, a total of 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants were also arrested during the period.

The Customs boss insisted that the partial border closure was yielding the desired results as the nation’s consumption of petroleum products has dropped by 10.2 million litres.

READ ALSO: FG, Labour Leaders Meet Over Implementation Of N30,000 Minimum Wage

Thousands were said to have been left stranded as reports of the closure of the nation’s borders emerged in late August.

In its reaction, the Nigerian government denied closure of the borders but explained that it was carrying out a joint operation at various locations involving Customs operatives and that of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) among others.

The Comptroller-General of NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede, in an earlier interview with Channels Television, said, “There is no border closure but there was a border drill and there was an announcement from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).”

On August 28, President Muhammadu Buhari met with his counterpart from Benin Republic Patrice Talon, in Japan where he confirmed that there was a partial closure of Nigeria’s borders with his country.

He attributed the development to the massive smuggling activities that have taken place on that corridor.

The President said Nigeria has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using the nation’s scarce foreign reserves.

The development was welcomed by the Senate which commended President Buhari for his decision to temporarily close all land borders to address smuggling and its impact on the Nigerian economy.

Members of the lawmaker, during a plenary in September, urged the Customs and other security agencies to intensify efforts at tackling smuggling across the borders.

Some senators had, however, called on the government to be more mindful of the effects of border closure on Nigerians, especially as it relates to the price of food.

Ramaphosa Asks South Africans To Tolerate Migrants

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the crowd gathered in Makhanda, Eastern Cape Province on April 27, 2019.  Michele Spatari / AFP

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday urged South Africans to be tolerant of migrants following recent xenophobic violence, as hundreds of refugees camped outside UN offices demanding to be removed the country, fearing for their safety.  

“We are insisting there needs to be more tolerance, there needs to be more understanding,” Ramaphosa told the upper house of parliament in Cape Town.

In August and early September, the country saw a wave of xenophobic violence that left 10 South Africans and two migrants dead when mobs descended on foreign-owned stores in and around Johannesburg, destroying properties and looting.

“South Africans are not xenophobic, we are not,” he said, describing the recent unrest as having been “driven by criminality”.

Ramaphosa said while migration was a challenge, with locals and foreigners competing for limited resources and services, “there should never be any form of prejudice that will be exercised or perpetrated against others.”

He answered questions in parliament, a few office blocks away from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices, where up to 300 foreigners staged a sit-in, demanding to be taken out of South Africa saying they were no longer safe.

They vowed not to leave the premises until the UNHCR addressed their concerns.

As Africa’s most industrialised nation, South Africa is a magnet for economic migrants searching for better job prospects and asylum seekers looking for safety.

But the migrants gathered outside the UNHCR offices insist the country is no longer safe for them.

In a statement it assured the refugees and asylum seekers that it was “working closely” with South African authorities to continue providing protection through issuing appropriate identity documentation, facilitating access to health care, education and employment opportunities.

South Africa is hosting close to 268,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia, among others according to the UNHCR.

“As South Africans we should be embracing one another and indeed we should also embrace foreign nationals,” Ramaphosa added.

Greek Police Evict Over 260 Migrants From Athens Squats

Evicted migrants board a bus during a police operation in the center of Athens on September 19, 2019. /AFP

 

Police in Athens on Thursday removed over 260 migrants, including dozens of children, from two squats in the city centre as part of a law-and-order drive by the new conservative government.

Overall 269 people, including nearly 100 minors, were removed and taken to the police headquarters for identification, the police said in a statement.

State TV ERT showed the migrants boarding buses, some of them clutching plastic bags with their belongings.

READ ALSO: Boris Johnson Caught Lying On Hospital Visit

The two abandoned buildings had been occupied since 2016, the police said.

The crackdown has been opposed by anti-establishment and rights groups who say the operations unfairly target migrant families, who would otherwise be homeless, and the solidarity groups that support them.

Thousands of anti-establishment protesters marched in Athens on Saturday in a demonstration against the squat evacuations.

New Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, elected in July, has vowed to combat “lawlessness”. The new Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis — who is the prime minister’s nephew — was similarly elected on a public safety ticket in June.

Bakoyannis argues that order must be restored before sidelined landmarks such as the National Archaeological Museum and the Athens Polytechnic — in the middle of drug-trading areas — can become tourist draws.

Italian Police Arrest Three Over Trafficking Of Migrants

 

Italian police arrested three people Monday accused of the kidnap, torture and trafficking of migrants hoping to set sail from Libya to Europe.

Their accusers described a catalogue of abuse including the systematic rape of women and the murder of some migrants.

A 27-year old man from Guinea and two Egyptians, aged 24 and 26, were taken into custody in a detention centre in Messina, Sicily, after police gathered testimony against them from other migrants.

The arrested men had crossed the Mediterranean themselves, landing in Lampedusa before being transferred to Sicily.

Witnesses said the three ran a prisoners’ camp in a former military base in Zawyia in Libya, where those ready to attempt the perilous sea crossing were forcibly held until they could pay a ransom.

Those interviewed said they had been “beaten with sticks, rifle butts, rubber pipes, whipped or given electric shocks”, and had seen other prisoners die, police said.

They had also been refused water or medical attention for their wounds or for diseases contracted in the camp, they said.

Anyone unable to pay up was passed on to other traffickers “for sexual and/or work exploitation”, or was killed.

The testimonies were gathered from migrants spread in reception centres across Sicily and on the island of Lampedusa.

“All the women who were with us… were systematically and repeatedly raped,” one witness was quoted as saying.

“They gave us seawater to drink and, sometimes, hard bread to eat. We men were beaten to get our relatives to pay sums of money in exchange for our release,” he said.

“I saw the organisers shoot two migrants who had tried to escape”.

 ‘Shot for bread’ 

Another said he was “whipped by electrical wires. Other times I was beaten, even around the head”.

One survivor described how the electric shocks “made you fall to the ground unconscious”, adding that he had “personally witnessed many murders by electric shock”.

Some migrants died of hunger, according to another cited witness, who described seeing a jailer “shoot a Nigerian in the legs for having taken a piece of bread”.

Libya, despite being wracked by chaos and conflict since the 2011 uprising that killed the dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has remained a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration in July, at least 5,200 people are currently trapped in official detention centres in Libya, often in appalling conditions.

There are no figures for the number of people held in illegal centres run by human traffickers, who brutally torture them to try to extort money from their families.

Italy’s tough line on migrants arriving from North Africa, and European Union cooperation with the Libyan coastguard, has seen some of those attempting the crossing picked up at sea and returned to the chaos-wracked country.

The UN and aid groups have warned those returned face rampant human rights abuses in both official and illegal centres.

AFP

Three Suspects Arrested For Kidnapping, Torturing Migrants

A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, on June 27, 2017. PHOTO: Taha JAWASHI / AFP

 

Italian police arrested three people on Monday accused of the kidnap, torture and trafficking of migrants hoping to set sail from Libya to Europe.

Their accusers described a catalogue of abuse including the systematic rape of women and the murder of some migrants.

A 27-year old man from Guinea and two Egyptians, aged 24 and 26, were taken into custody in a detention centre in Messina, Sicily, after police gathered testimony against them from other migrants.

The arrested men had crossed the Mediterranean themselves, landing in Lampedusa before being transferred to Sicily.

Witnesses said the three ran a prisoners’ camp in a former military base in Zawyia in Libya, where those ready to attempt the perilous sea crossing were forcibly held until they could pay a ransom.

Those interviewed said they had been “beaten with sticks, rifle butts, rubber pipes, whipped or given electric shocks”, and had seen other prisoners die, police said.

They had also been refused water or medical attention for their wounds or for diseases contracted in the camp, they said.

Anyone unable to pay up was passed on to other traffickers “for sexual and/or work exploitation”, or was killed.

The testimonies were gathered from migrants spread in reception centres across Sicily and on the island of Lampedusa.

“All the women who were with us… were systematically and repeatedly raped,” one witness was quoted as saying.

“They gave us seawater to drink and, sometimes, hard bread to eat. We men were beaten to get our relatives to pay sums of money in exchange for our release,” he said.

“I saw the organisers shoot two migrants who had tried to escape”.

 ‘Shot for bread’

Another said he was “whipped by electrical wires. Other times I was beaten, even around the head”.

One survivor described how the electric shocks “made you fall to the ground unconscious”, adding that he had “personally witnessed many murders by electric shock”.

Some migrants died of hunger, according to another cited witness, who described seeing a jailer “shoot a Nigerian in the legs for having taken a piece of bread”.

Libya, despite being wracked by chaos and conflict since the 2011 uprising that killed the dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has remained a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration in July, at least 5,200 people are currently trapped in official detention centres in Libya, often in appalling conditions.

There are no figures for the number of people held in illegal centres run by human traffickers, who brutally torture them to try to extort money from their families.

Italy’s tough line on migrants arriving from North Africa, and European Union cooperation with the Libyan coastguard, has seen some of those attempting the crossing picked up at sea and returned to the chaos-wracked country.

The UN and aid groups have warned those returned face rampant human rights abuses in both official and illegal centres.

AFP

France Rescues 22 Migrants Heading For Britain

Migrants wait to board a bus during the evacuation of a makeshift camp in La Villette Park in Paris, on August 28, 2019. PHOTO: Martin BUREAU / AFP

 

French rescuers picked up 22 migrants including 11 children whose vessel broke down as they tried to cross the Channel in a bid to reach Britain, French maritime authorities said on Tuesday.

A British fishing boat had alerted French officials on Tuesday afternoon after spotting the boat in distress.

The migrants were eventually brought back to Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France and handed over to border police.

Migrants are taking ever greater risks to reach Britain from France, which has taken an uncompromising approach towards so-called economic migrants who come to Europe in search of a better life.

Since January, some 1,450 migrants have been rescued either by British or French coastguards — more than double the number who tried to cross the busy shipping lane in the whole of 2018, according to official French figures released Monday.

France has attributed a recent spike in attempts to good summer weather, which has emboldened more migrants to make the journey.

However, such crossings remain dangerous given the heavy maritime traffic in the Channel as well as strong currents.

The body of an Iraqi migrant who tried to swim across the Channel from France to Britain on Monday was found off Belgium’s coast, wearing a makeshift life jacket made of empty plastic bottles.

Officials  believe the 48-year-old drowned after setting off from a beach in northern France, with currents dragging him into Belgian waters.

British interior minister Priti Patel is set to discuss the issue of illegal migration on Thursday with her French counterpart Christophe Castaner.

AFP