The Malta Independent 27 May 2019, Monday

MOAS debate on migration: human traffickers are selling refugees to Isis

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 27 May 2016, 14:51 Last update: about 4 years ago

Human traffickers are selling refugees to Isis, Alganesh Fessaha who is the Founder and President of Associazione Ghandi said during a debate on migration organised by MOAS.

MOAS held a debate today, bringing together five experts who deal with refugees and migration at different levels. The panel consisted of Malek Jandali, an award winning composer and pianist who is the founder and CEO of Pianos for Peace, Alganesh Fessaha who is the Founder and President of Associazione Ghandi, Cecilia Strada the President of Emergency (an Italian humanitarian organisation), Sami Zapita who is the Managing Editor of the Libya Herald and Nando Sigona, a senior lecturer and Deputy Director of the Institute of Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham.

Just before the debate launched, a video was played, explaining that in 2015 almost 4,000 people died crossing the Mediterranean.

Alganesh Fessaha spoke of organ trafficking, and said that human smugglers are trafficking migrants to Isis against their will. She spoke of a Libyan child, who was on a boat which went missing, and said that a year later, one of the people managed to make contact with her family and told them she was a slave for Isis.

Ms Fessaha said that men trafficked to Isis are forced to fight for them, while women are used to have children.

She spoke of a new migration route. "The situation in Libya is becoming crucial and the people cannot wait, so they go back to Sudan, head to the Suez canal and then go to Alexandria. In Alexandria, the smuggling situation is developing fast, but to come to Europe from Alexandria takes 15 days. Smugglers take small groups of refugees in small boats, taking them to an island, and leave them wait. This process is repeated for three or four islands. At the end of that part of the journey, they collect everyone and put them in a big boat".

"Last time I was there, I heard that one mother was killed with her two children, but their organs were removed".

Cecilia Strada mentioned that migration will not stop anytime soon. "In the context of global warfare and inequalities, people will not stop looking for a better future. Hundreds have died in the past 48 hours", she said.

She asked everyone to consider the reaction one would have to three Boeing 747s crashing within 48 hours. "If they crashed, people would stop and look into the cause of the crash," she said, indicating that the same is not being done for the migrants drowning in the Mediterranean.

Ms Strada suggested a new way of looking at the situation, urging the need to tell stories about the people themselves, in order to personalise the whole situation.

Her organisation helps run a camp in Iraq which oversees 20,000 refugees. "What drives me crazy is, that if they manage to reach Europe, they find worse conditions that when they are in the Iraqi Kurdistan camps. Many arrive in Europe thinking their nightmare ends, however the truth is that another begins. I met a grandmother who travelled to Europe with seven grandchildren. It took them two years to get here. Their families back home wanted a better life for their children. Luckily they all arrived safely. They were lucky".

Malek Jandali spoke about the dehumanisation of the whole crisis "They are children, women, not migrants".

His organisation fights for peace through music.

He said that anyone in their position would want to leave their country, risking death. He said that if we were in their position, we would also be on boats.

All spoke about the human tragedy, and the need to address the problem at its roots, and not just the superficial problems.

He mentioned that there are thousands upon thousands of children being born, without any documents, no id cards, no names, being born in refugee camps. This in itself is creating another kind of genocide. Imagine if you didn't even exist. The majority of Syrian people are not even citizens because of the dictatorship. So they don't have any rights. What I am trying to do through my music is to unite people, to remind ourselves of our own humanity. I believe losing one child is too much. Through music, we can create a symphony of unity, a symphony for peace, so we can unite our efforts to help children".

He mentioned the situation back in Syria, where one would look up and see a Russian jet with the Syrian flag, dropping bombs on Synagogues, Mosques and homes.

Referring to Assad, he said "we know who is the cause of these problems, who bombed his people, killed children.   

He told the story of a child, who was being operated on by a doctor. "He was dying, and the last thing he told the doctor was 'I will tell God everything'... and he passed away. That story will remain in my heart forever.

M Samir Zapita mentioned that migration is not high on the Libyan agenda, and highlighted the unity government's lack of power in the country. "Security inflation, high prices, kidnappings, those are very high on agenda of average Libyan, not migration".

People look out for their interests. In reality, and it is a sad reality, migration does not effect Libyans day to day lives. This is a black market activity, and for example, most migrants are put on boats after midnight, away from the eyes of security and civilians, so there is no crossing point between their everyday life and the activity of illegal migration".

"We've had illegal migrants and Libya is a net importer of foreign labour. The average Libyan is not interested in blue collar jobs, which are left to African migrants. Human trafficking does not affect them, so it will be hard to bring it up higher on the agenda of the average Libyan. It can, however, be brought up on the political agenda of the Libyan government. The problem is that there has to be a quid pro quo.

"Lets be real, I know most of the panellists were humanitarians, but international relations on this stage are about interests, and Europe has to find a way to link Libya's interests with Europe's interests without going against humanitarians or sacrificing human rights".

He said that Libya's Government of National Accord does not have much reach, and in the East of Libya where most migrants leave, it does not have control.

All of EU policy, he said, "is dependent on cooperation with what is, at this moment, a non-existent Libyan government who is not strong or effective".

"If the European Union cannot help Libya solve its root problems, then it cannot help solve the migration problem.


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