By Roberto Massari*
I start from the premise that I am in favour of the maximum welcoming of migrant flows provided these take place in a human and legally planned way according to the traditions and values of Western secular (that is, illuminist) civilisation.
Here I am not concerned with the phenomenon of immigration or “landings” as such, but rather the international trafficking of human beings and therefore of the crime against every principle of humanity represented by “embarkations”, the terminal point of an international criminal network.
This has always existed, but has strengthened in recent years for reasons that are not always clear but with complicity in the state apparatus of Italy and Libya, in the first place, but also of Turkey, Spain and so on, in addition to the countries of origin.
For these reasons I would like to give maximum visibility to the article entitled ‘The Trafficking of Human Beings’ by Fred Kuwornu, an Italian film director of Ghanaian origin, who says frankly what I have been thinking for a long time and which the figures show conclusively: that is, this entire humanitarian story of embarkations/landings is being run by national and international mafias as a real 21st century “trafficking” in human beings.
This began by exploiting the psychological emotionality provoked by the first shipwrecks of dinghies (and it is strongly suspected that they were provoked on purpose) and continued as an incentive for a mass exodus from Africa and Asia, violating all the rules of civilisation, respect for the human person and the safeguarding of life, creating trafficking in prostitution and new slavery, and also damaging the economic conditions of the countries of origin.
The “vessels of death” were soon replaced by NGO ships (super-paid to carry out the transport to destination) and human trafficking could be carried out more or less undisturbed for some years.
The truth is that the NGOs (as long as they were allowed), the humanitarian associations engaged in favouring the landings (actually, the embarkations), sectors of the navy involved, various “fixers” and local companies particularly interested in the landings were perpetrating or providing cover to one of the greatest crimes of the current era.
If there is the drama of landings and if there are thousands of people dead in the waters of the Mediterranean it is because there exists the traffic of embarkations, run by criminal associations that until today have been able to carry out their dirty work undisturbed. Indeed, at the beginning, when they were forced to use their own boats, they were courteously returned to them so they could continue the trafficking.
I know I am guilty of having dragged my feet, because the time had long come for the moral obligation of crying out loud that all those who favour the trade in embarkations are in one way or another more or less unintentional accomplices of this criminal network.
This trade starts in distant countries such as Bangladesh, which houses the second largest ethnic group in terms of number of refugees in this area disguised as requests for political asylum (and it is precisely Bangladesh that proves that political asylum has nothing to do with it, it is only a pretext), passes through Central Africa and reaches the shores of the Mediterranean.
That these things should come from the mouth of an intellectual of Ghanaian (and therefore African) origin may perhaps open breaches in the minds of those in the alleged “progressive” sector which, with their humanitarian campaigns on landings do not realise they are actually encouraging embarkations, with their sad following of deaths or dinghies sunk on purpose to arouse the humanitarian reaction of the media.
This does not mean that we should not welcome all those who manage to arrive on the Italian coast: this is out of the question. But it means that if you do not want to be morally co-responsible for deaths by drowning and the criminal traffic that takes place before and after the landings, embarkations must be prevented from taking place; that means that we must intervene harshly and immediately beforehand in the places where trafficking originates. To do this there is no alternative to the physical destruction of the criminal enterprises that manage the traffic.
Timid and partial measures can for now buffer some situations, as Massud Abdel Samat (head of the Libyan coastguard and under the orders of Tripoli) is reported as having said by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on July 15:
“The new Italian government did well to stop the NGOs, which in fact were functional to trafficking. The traffickers and criminal organisations that thrive on the sale of human beings are in crisis. A crisis so serious that they are moving their activities to Tunisia and Morocco”.
Obviously this Libyan coastguard is not held to know that the current Italian government – run by the Northern League and the 5 Star Movement – is driven by a racist and xenophobic spirit in its opposition to landings, but it is also true that for the first time we are hearing in the media, from Italian government circles, words like “traffickers” and the like that were previously (under Democratic Party governments) taboo (while they had been a common currency in other European countries for some time).
It should be added that the current Italian government is say nothing about the policy of repatriations. This is not only cynical barbarism (given, beyond other considerations, even the financial sacrifices and risks of life that these poor victims of trafficking in human beings have run), but the taxpayer is not told that the average unit cost for each repatriation is around ten thousand euros (including first class return by plane of the two escort agents expected for every poor person repatriated).
Regarding the NGOs, it must be noted that they have collaborated and want to continue collaborating with the criminals of human trafficking. Their task was to go and collect migrants on rubber dinghies just outside Libyan territorial waters, get them on ships (super-funded), take them to Italian ports and look good with the rubbish of “having saved them”.
Without them, the trafficking would have had problems continuing, both because of the risk that not all dinghies would reach the Italian coast (we are talking about tens of thousands of human beings), and because other countries did not want them (except Turkey where migrants arrived and arrive by land in order to replenish the coffers of the dictatorial government of Erdogan which receives billions from the European Union), and because the Italian navy still had rules to be respected.
The recently sunken dinghies – strangely enough as soon as Matteo Salvini (Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior – ed.) closed Italian ports to the NGOs – were in a certain sense “foreseen” by the slavers-traffickers who used obsolete dinghies at risk of sinking. (The news, given for certain, comes from between the lines of Corriere della Sera).
These criminals know very well the psychological effect that the death of migrants at sea has on public opinion: after all, this shameful trafficking – perhaps the greatest shame under way at this time in the world – began with the more or less programmed sinking of some dinghies.
The fact understandably moved public opinion (with newspapers, other media and Democratic Party as accomplices); it aroused emotional reactions that were far from rational and so began this unprecedented trafficking which capitalism will have to be ashamed one day of having allowed and encouraged. And with it the whole humanitarian procession.
For hundreds of millions of people, the dream of abandoning Asia and Africa to reach Europe is as old as the colonialism that impoverished these continents. What is not old – indeed it is very recent – is the construction of an international network which, behind the payment of high figures for the poor people who pay them, and at the risk of life on the boats, manages to bring in masses of migrants to Europe, without going through customs or airports and without documentation.
At the beginning, these poor people were asked by the trafficking mafias to pay at least 1,000 euro per person (a monstrous figure for the poor of Asia and Africa), but now these figures are increasing (for the traffic from Greece it is almost 3,000 euro) in addition to the extortion before embarkation of which Fred Kuwornu also speaks.
Furthermore, after arriving in Libya (after weeks or months of suffering), these people found themselves unable to pay or unable to pay the supplements demanded, unable to turn back and reduced to the state of slavery in Libyan refugee camps and in other camps run by criminal gangs and corrupt state officials.
Female prostitution has often been the last chance that remains to pay the figures requested by the slavers. In any case, it is still prostitution that awaits many of these women once “disembarked” on the Italian coast, when they are taken hostage by other criminal networks linked to the same networks that brought them.
At a certain point, the difference with the dream of the past of emigrating to Europe and the possibility of realising it concretely came from the practice of accepting immigrants as long as they arrived by sea, on boats and other makeshift means and not through consular permits, charter aircraft, and so on.
It was a move (I cannot say to what extent desired by the previous Italian government of Matteo Renzi) that made hundreds of millions believe that sea landing (disguised as a request for political asylum) was finally the door wide open to anyone for entering Europe. It was therefore an artificially rekindled hope, almost an invitation to set off (from Bangladesh, from the Middle East, from Central Africa, and so on), somehow obtaining the 1,000 euro to pay to criminal gangs and willing to face the risks of sea voyages.
With the intervention of the NGOs, those risks have been reduced to a minimum and therefore the influx has also grown excessively. In this sense the NGOs have been “technical” accomplices of the new trafficking. And, in any case, they were paid handsomely for every trip (it is said about at least 240,000 euro per trip, but obviously it is difficult to have certainty on the figures, accessory costs, bribes, etc.).
I hope no one believes any longer in the good faith of these “transport agencies” that have nothing to do with the original spirit of the NGOs which, in some cases and in some countries, still remain.
Criminal gangs and the chain involved in sea transport have speculated on the illusions of many poor people. All this because our Italian and European “civilisation” does not allow anyone wanting to migrate to Europe to do so with a charter flight costing less than 100 euro each, landing legally and civilly at, for example, Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
No, the brutal pursuit of money, of workers being over-exploited under illegal employment, and of new unskilled workers to be recruited to traffickings of all kinds means that entry can only take place by paying criminal gangs, only by risking lives, only by surrendering to other criminal gangs active in Italy and Europe.
Right-thinking people seem not to understand this difference, but I repeat: why not enter free and legally from Fiumicino, instead of paying the mafias and illegally from the sea?
Instead of complaining indignantly whenever a landing attempt ends tragically, instead of hypocritically thinking only of the drama of the landings, start thinking about the traffic in embarkations and answer my question (which, among others, ordinary people have been asking for some time, obviously without receiving answers from the political nomenklatura).
By asking that question, one will begin to understand the monstrous nature of the crime represented by the trafficking of human beings and the network of embarkations.
The former pseudo-left which, in the meantime, has become a simple mass of progressive opinion, is totally in bad faith with its whining about who dies during the trips organised by human traffickers.
No longer having the ideals of social emancipation in which to believe, it relies on humanitarian optimism which, as has often happened in the history of humanity (from the reserves with smallpox vaccinations for native Americans to today’s assisted traffic of human beings) only serves to hide the sense of individual and collective guilt towards countries that have been ruined first by the colonialist then imperialist policies of those same states of which immigrants would now like to become subjects.
* Roberto Massari, an Italian publisher, graduated in Philosophy in Rome, Sociology in Trento and Piano Studies at the Conservatory of Perugia. He has been President of the Che Guevara International Foundation since 1998 and is moderator of the Utopia Rossa (Red Utopia) blog. Translated by Phil Harris.