Europe's refugee crisis creates opportunities for people smugglers, says Amnesty rep

Europe's refugee crisis 'creates opportunities for people smugglers'

The Lifeline ship, that was turned away by Italy and docked in Malta. Image: Getty

Thursday, June 28, 2018

An Amnesty representative says Europe's refugee crisis has opened business opportunities for people smugglers.

Steve Valdez-Symonds of Amnesty UK’s refugee rights programme said that the lack of an official solution in the EU meant migrants were turning to smugglers to help them.

“We knew the numbers of people who were forced into movement along these routes has hugely increased as a result of the conflict in Syria,” he said on the talkRADIO breakfast show.

“European leaders contrived to do nothing but keep their borders closed to stop people from moving. What happened? Smugglers and traffickers took a business opportunity from their perspective.

“Now what you have is economies that have built up and are dependent on this.

“So sending people back to Libya, where people receive the most inhumane treatment, torture, extortion, slavery and the rest - is no solution whatsoever.”

'Countries should work together'

Migration will be high on the agenda at the EU summit in Brussels today and tomorrow (July 28 and 29), and German chancellor Angela Merkel has urged countries to work together to find a solution. 

Germany has taken in over a million refugees since 2015, bu interior minister Thomas de Maizière wants to impose tougher border controls.

Applications for asylum in Germany have fallen from a peak of 890,000 in 2015 to just over 200,00 last year.

A rescue boat carrying 234 migrants was turned away two days ago by Italy, whose new, anti-migrant coalition government took power at the start of June.

The boat docked in Malta after nearly a week at sea.

'Don't make peace with a populist government'

Italy had previously refused to let another rescue boat carrying 630 migrants dock, and it was taken in by Spain.

The Italian government is calling for Libya and other African countries to establish processing centres for migrants.

MEP Claude Moraes added: “I hope member states do not try and make peace with a right-wing populist [Italian] government.”

According to the European Parliament, there were 728,470 applications for asylum in the EU last year, down from 1.3 million in 2016.

Some 538,000 people were granted asylum in 2017 with one in three being from Syria. 70% of the Syrian applicants were given asylum in Germany.