Smuggling networks are quite intricate, their networks are multilateral: they involve people on both sides of the Mediterranean, that’s to say on both continents -Africa and Europe.
In order to combat these networks and destroy them, governments of several African and European countries need to collaborate and work together. Most African countries involved fail to see the gravity of the issue and treat the matter as a domestic problem.
Italian investigations: Study by Sahan Africa
The majority of “leaders” monitoring the central Mediterranean route are of Eritrean origin they join forces with their Somali and Sundanese counterparts. It is obviously challenging to catch the criminals of such complex networks.
Italian investigations were held in 2013 and 2014 due to the terrible tragedies that took place near Lampedusa. According to sahan these investigations disclosed a lot of considerable details “these enquiries revealed, in considerable detail, a great deal of information about the organisation and structure of key human smuggling and trafficking networks between the Horn of Africa and Europe via the Central Mediterranean Route.” These two operations where respectively called “operation Tokhla” and “operation Glauco 2”
The Tokhla enquiry brought about several arrests in Sicily. Maesho Tesfamariam who is an Eritrean ringleader based in Germany was also captured following this investigation.
The 2014 Glauco 2 operation was an 18-month ongoing investigation, that uncovered the operating methods of a couple of notorious smugglers that go by the name of “Medhanie Yehdego Mered” who is originally Eritrean and “Ermias Ghermay” who is Ethiopian. According to the Study made by Sahan Africa these two people were responsible for “the vessel that sank off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013.” The operation documented communications between these two people and their associates who were based in several countries including Sudan, Israel, Sweden and Switzerland. On the other hand, Mered was responsible for a boat that drowned on 18 April 2015. The investigative squad intercepted calls between Mered and his counterparts based in Sudan , Italy , the Netherlands and Sweden. Based on Sahan’s study “The public release of the Glauco 2 findings apparently disrupted Mered’s plans to emigrate to Europe and sent him into hiding, leaving his network in the hands of his associate, “Wedi Issak”.”
Several prominent names were mentioned by the same study including the Eritrean Abdurazak Esmail, who is one of the largest smugglers managing a network from Libya. He works in parallel with other people named “Jaber” and “Abduselam” and another accomplice called Jamal Saudi – a former prisoner in Eritrea.
In case the accusations against them are correct, then these aforementioned people are responsible for the story of the ghost boat, the vessel that disappeared at sea with 180 passengers back in April 2014. Several other boats had the same fate in 2015 as well. the smuggling networks are widespread between Sudan and Libya and there are several people involved from both countries but most of the traffickers are of Eritrean origins. This was clearly mentioned in the published reports of the Tokhla operation and the Sahan Africa study “Eritrean smugglers and traffickers in Libya and in Sudan include “Kidane”, “Walid”, “Chegora” and a female smuggler, “Zaid”, all of whom operate warehouses in Ajdabiya. Among the largest smugglers exclusively operating in Sudan and feeding into networks in Libya are “Wedi German”, “Kiros”, “John Merhay”, and “Shumay Ghirmay”.”
Ethiopian investigations: Study by Sahan Africa
Based on Sahan’s study, Ethiopian authorities conducted an investigation in 2014 and 2015. This enquiry lead to the arrest of over two hundred traffickers most of which were related to the southern route – the corridor to South Africa-. The federal police of Ethiopia claims that despite all these arrests migrants are still moving on and being smuggled in and out of the same countries. According to the police as well, migrants are channelled from Somaliland and Eritrea into Ethiopia all the way to Addis Ababa where they are usually linked with their following smugglers. The migrants will eventually cross Sudan via a transit hub located near Khartoum called “Camp Hajar” in order to reach Libya afterwards (as demonstrated below) .
Ethiopian investigation uncovered the financial transactions of a notorious smuggler that goes by the name of Ali Hashi who happened to be a relative of a famous Somali businessman. Ethiopian authorities possess a list that has all the names and phone numbers of smuggling drivers.
In accordance to the aforementioned information a Sudanese official contacted by Sahan stated the following “[This] issue is affecting our border security tremendously. Parts of Libya are becoming uncontrollable. It is becoming a smugglers’ paradise, everybody can do whatever they want to do. The smuggling trade is therefore threatening the security of Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, the whole region.”
The whole region is clearly under threat if the authorities of the countries involved don’t take the necessary measures to secure their borders.