tv Africas Billion Pound Migrant Trail... BBC News September 20, 2017 3:30am-4:01am BST
it's just gone 3:30am, time now for panorama. africa's european dream. for people smugglers it's a £1 billion business. did you feel like a slave? i was a slave! this is land of slavery. now europe's under pressure to crack down, but at what cost? how many people here know someone who's died? will the migrant crisis ever end? i'm retracing the migrant trail from the shores of the mediterranean back to the heart of africa. my journey starts five miles out at sea. every night the libyan coastguard patrol these waters, where smugglers launch migrant boats destined for europe. i think we have a big problem today. getting past the coastguard is
the last leg of the migrant trail. it's surprising just how armed they are. there's a machine gun attached to the boat. there's an rpg. they're ready for a fight. quickly, the coastguard spots a boat in the distance. looks like there's at least 100 people there. where are you from? in the past few years, hundreds of thousands have been picked up by a european—led rescue effort and taken to italy. it's saved countless lives, but many think it's encouraged more to take the journey. you can hear the babies crying.
i can't imagine how scary it would be for me to be there never mind a baby. now the eu is spending tens of millions supporting the libyan coastguard to stop more boats, board them and take them back to libya. that's two boats in the space of five minutes, each with about 120 people on. the eu's change in tactics seemed to be working. so daylight has started to emerge now. we've been out here for a good few hours. now we are starting back to the port. last august, 21,000 people made it to italy from libya. this yearjust 4,000 did. but turning the boats back mean these people are stuck in libya, a war—torn lawless country, where migrants are often exploited and abused.
does anyone speak english? where are you from? gambia. is this your first time trying or have you tried before? what do you think is going to happen now? are you scared? people smuggling is big business here. the coastguard told us migrants are paying about $1500 for a place on one of these boats. that means there's about $900,000 worth of people here. we see them as people, smugglers see them as money. with so much money at stake, how easy will stopping the smugglers be? i asked the man in charge of the coastguard here. he tells me it's made
harder by the huge bribes offered by smugglers. have you been approached by smugglers asking to let their boat pass? people here today, how do you stop them from ending up back in the smuggling world again? the migrants caught by the coastguard today are taken to one of libya's network of detention centres. but for me, my next stop is the libyan capital. 0n the multibillion—pound migration trail nearly all roads now pass through tripoli.
the numbers reaching italy have dropped in recent months, but there are still thought to be a million migrants in libya. 0n the streets of tripoli, they're everywhere. many trying are raise enough money to pay for their crossing to europe. for some, it will be the second or third time trying. but it's causing tensions with some of the locals. why are you so angry? it shows you just how tense this is. i suppose libyans feel as though there's a problem on their doorstep that isn't their problem. life on the streets is hard.
but not nearly as hard as being in a detention centre. it's rare to get permission to film in these centres, but this one's agreed. here, there are over a thousand men. i'm shown around by the manager. i can't believe how many people there are. it's boiling in here. thanks a lot. it smells pretty badly as you'd imagine having this many men in one place. some here are refugees. but many are economic migrants, who see europe as a way to escape poverty.
even travelling from as far away as south asia. how much did you pay? $7,000 i pay for come here and go to italy. $7,000? yes, us dollars. why did you sell everything? because i have a dream, everyone should have a dream. that's why i have also a dream. i want to go to europe then i will be rich man. do you regret leaving? yeah, yeah. if i know before came here, i never come to here. it's just never ending. did you get caught in the sea, trying to make it to europe? how many people here tried to make it to europe?
would you do it again? you will. he's going to keep doing it over and over again. yeah, yeah. most of these men will be here for months and feeding them is getting harder. the centre isn't receiving enough money from the libyan government, with more migrants being stopped at sea, there could be even more mouths to feed. also here, 200 women and children. do you like being here? you don't like it? why? you don't have a job. you're too young to have a job. the women here tell me shocking stories of the invasive searches and sexual abuse that they've encountered on the migrant trail. has that happened to all of you? yes!
who did that? who was it? when they searched you, what were you feeling? what were you thinking? one woman even says she was sold into slavery by the libyan authorities. do you know how much they sold you for? did you feel like a slave? these women are not alone. along the migrant trail, billions are being made
from slavery and extortion. and aid organisations say that europe's attempts to push migrants back to libya are feeding a criminal system of abuse. while the eu is under pressure to stem the flow, it says a top concern is to help people stuck in libya. long before they make it to the libyan coast, migrants have to endure the deadly crossing of the sahara desert. next stop on myjourney, neighbouring niger. until a few months you'd see pick—up
trucks packed with people openly heading through the desert to libya. the migrant trade was so engrained here, thousands were profiting from it. the eu has given nearly 300 million euros here to help authorities clamp down and smuggling is now illegal. we've been given access to a secure military base that contains cars that have been taken from smugglers and it's quite unbelievable to see the scale. there's about 100 pick—up trucks around me. each can take 50 people and they would make daily attempts to get to libya. some of them have identity cards in them showing where these people are coming from. this one from liberia. people from across africa. but for each car confiscated, there's a driver without a vehicle and without a livelihood. former drivers have even set up a trade union.
this is one of the leaders. nice to meet you. i'm sure all of these people around us now used to be smugglers themselves? he's angry, but the eu is trying to help. it turns out today, they're holding a conference in town. this isn'tjust any meeting. along with nigerian and eu officials are people smugglers and lots of them. they're lining up to be selected for eu funding, to launch businesses of their choice. away from the camera, an official gave me more information. each did get 6,000 euros at a time
to move from smuggling into any profession that they wish. they could say they want to be a mechanic and they'll be given money to become one. i was told the smugglers are being given eu money via third parties. the official said the scheme has flaws though. the issue is that it's almost impossible to vet these guys because there's no payer that says you're a smuggler. you just need friends or colleagues who will vouch for you. they also told me — it's hard to monitor how the smugglers will spend the money. the eu has since said they don't give money to ex—smugglers, but they do confirm they're training them and investing in their businesses. some will question, though, if it's right to reward ex—smugglers in this way. even with eu efforts, there's still a smuggling business here. but the trade is now hidden. you just have to know where to look. just had a phone call from a guy
who says that he's going to let us speakto him. he is a smuggler. he has about 20 to 25 people in his house. today he's taking them across the sahara into libya. we're driving into the compound now which is where we're meeting ourfriend, but we are a long way from the centre. look at this, there we go, migrants. they all seem quite surprised to see us. hello, does anybody speak english? you all do? where are you from? nigeria. are you guys trying to make it to europe? in the compound is a mixture of nigerian men, women and children. the men say they travelled here together after they finished school. where are you going next, are you going to libya? libya is a very dangerous country. it very unstable.
they seem to have been briefed by the people who run this place, so we have to be careful what we say, because he is standing just behind us. they all seem to be in a bad way and they have no idea what will happen next. shall we leave our water? very weird situation. the most amazing thing about it is how little they seem to know about the journey ahead of them. none of them seemed to have any idea about libya and the horrors await them. they all have this idea that europe is an unbelievably welcoming place where everyone will accept them and they will be given a beautiful life. sadly, none of those are entirely true. later that day, we hear that the migrants we just met are leaving for libya across the desert. to avoid detection, the smuggler sends them out of town alone. he will meet them at nightfall.
we arrange to be there too. crossing the sahara was always dangerous, but the recent clamp—down means it's now too risky for smugglers to use the main road, so the migrants travel on deadly desert tracks instead. definitely don't want to get lost on these roads. there is very likely going to be enlightening and sand storm to hit us. as the storm hits, it quickly becomes clear just how tough environment is. this is not ideal. 0ur road has become a river. as we wait for the storm to pass, the smuggler phones us, saying he is no longer coming, leaving the young migrants stuck in the desert and us unable to contact them. you start to feel very isolated here. i would not want to be a migrant in this. with the water rising further,
we have no choice but to head back to agadez. 0ur car has just been stuck in the middle of a lake that was created by the storm. we managed to pull it out because we had a 4x4 with us. if we were a group of migrants, it is likely that we would have been abandoned and left there. and we know for sure that there are migrants out tonight, so i don't know what happened to them. the next day, we hear that at least seven people have been found dead in the desert. we don't know if they were the ones we had met. the smuggler had gone to ground. back in agadez, i head to meet people who have survived
a similarfate. the international 0rganisation for migration has rescued 1100 people from the desert since last year. it's impossible to know how many others have died. how many people here know someone who has died along the way? 16? is anybody here thinking of trying again? the journey through the desert has become more dangerous than ever,
with smugglers taking new routes to evade eu trend authorities. —— trained. but will this stop the people at the start of the migrant trail searching for a european dream, or the smugglers who profit so much from sending them? nigeria. nearly 40,000 people made it to italy from here last year, more than any other country. extreme poverty fuels a thriving smuggling trade. the police have invited me to see a suspected smuggler who had just been caught. as soon as i walk in, i am put right in the middle
of this woman's interrogation. they have found evidence of a contract with a migrant, and money transfers to and from italy. how much money did these women owe? police believe that to pay for theirjourneys, the women have to work as prostitutes. do you not feel upset that you are making girls work as prostitutes to give you money? why do you do this? what's going to happen now? so that was completely unexpected. didn't think i would end up in the middle of a chaotic interrogation. it's unbelievable to see how much money they make. she has already supposedly received
15,000 euros from a girl. she has two more girls on the way who are going to give her 15 grand, so that is potentially 115,000 euros in hand. the woman is being kept in custody and is now awaiting trial. the eu has spent more than 70 million euros to tackle nigeria's migrant trade. 0ne place that has received eu money is the government's anti—trafficking agency. nice to meet you. this poster says "i was promised a drop as a waitress but when i arrived, the traffickers forced me to work as prostitutes". is this what happens, people are sold a false dream? what are these numbers on the board? so these are the convictions you have got. you have had six.
that doesn't seem like many. why is that? last year, there were 507 trafficking investigations regionwide, but only 2a people were convicted. it seems like a drop in the ocean for this eu backed agency. especially as it's not hard to find smugglers here. 0n the other side of the city, a smuggler and two women are about to set off to europe. this is my chance to get to the start of the migrant trail, but it's dangerous. the smuggler, known as tony, is nervous. nobody knows what he does and even his wife thinks
he is a farmer. nice to meet you. we are all going tojump into his vehicle and then drive to his house. if he is caught by police, he could face 15 years in prison. he doesn't trust us, and we are not sure if we trust a man who trades in people's lives. we are rushed into a house with the camera hidden. iam ben. the women are kept here ahead of the journey. it's hidden in the suburbs, outside the city. are you the lady who is going to europe? the women are aged 25 and 30. theirfamilies have encouraged them to go. what country would you like to go to? how much do you need
to pay to get to europe? $25,000? so you guys have money that you could use. but what if they get robbed along the way? you swallow money? honestly? you're telling me you have money inside your body? how much money are you swallowing? $2000? i heard that a lot of women end up working in the sex industry in europe.
is that something you might do? i have been to niger, where people are dying in the desert. i have met people in libya who say they have been sexually assaulted. it's clear that the women are risking a lot for this trip. it's going to take them years to repay the smuggler. and it didn't seem like he was being entirely honest with them. everyone i spoke to was telling me that they had not been properly told about how the risks are along the way, that the desert is dangerous, the sea is dangerous. libya has parts that are dangerous. do you explain to the people you send? they won't go if you tell them?
so for you, it's more about money than safety. towards the end of our conversation, the smuggler suggests that the authorities are profiting from the trade as well. we were on a coastguard boat in libya. are you scared that they might stop one of your boats? you think the coastguard are involved? it sounds like you are saying in every country along the way, the authorities are part of it. because they are making money? i have reached the end of my journey. it's clear that it will be hard to stop this brutal industry worth billions, employing so many in countries where jobs are scarce. i have just got a message from the smuggler saying that the girls have now left benin city to head towards agadez to eventually go to europe. i will be honest and said that that genuinely makes me very upset, because i have seen the stuff these
girls will go through, and it is horrible. the numbers reaching italy have been dramatically cut, for now. but new routes have already opened up and around 1 million migrants are still trapped in libya with dreams of europe. many more are on the way. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name's mike embley. our top stories: a powerful earthquake strikes central mexico, toppling buildings and leaving at least 140 people dead. many are feared to be trapped in the ruins. i don't know the extent of the damage. what i do know is that dozens of people are desperately removing rubble here because they believe that someone here is trapped. hurricane maria strengthens as it sweeps west across the caribbean. the virgin islands and puerto rico