Interview with a Libyan people smuggler

The TimesBel Trew, Tripoli
Hundreds of young jobless Libyan men are choosing to join the migrant-trafficking gangs because they promise far more money than a job in the struggling economy.

One of the people smugglers told The Times in a rare interview that their number had risen sharply because of a lack of other work. Speaking from the trading hub of Sabha, the smuggler, who commands his own gang, said work had dried up because of the economic crisis since the country tumbled back into civil war in 2014. “There simply isn’t any other way to make a living,” he said.

In the south a “garage owner” is the name for a smuggler who typically commands up to 20 people and cars. They ferry the migrants from feeder countries such as Niger across the Sahara Desert. The vehicles go on to places such as Qatrun and Sabha, several hundred miles south of Tripoli. Each migrant is charged about 500 Libyan dinars (£290 at the official exchange rate and £55 on the black market) for the journey.

Locals are setting up on their own, the smuggler said. Even those without a car rent four-wheel-drive pick-up trucks and take up to 150 migrants a week in independent networks.

Read full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/migrant-crisis-there-s-no-other-way-to-make-a-living-libyan-people-smugglers-say-ddnjwxkfj

PHOTO: AHMED JADALLAH/REUTERS

Food runs short amid squalor of Libya’s detention centres

The TimesIn Libya’s migrant detention centres, they call it knife sleeping. Locked in windowless warehouses, the migrants have so little space they sleep in shifts. The men lie pressed back to back like cutlery stacked in a drawer.

At the Triq al-Siqqa centre in Tripoli, the putrid smell of 1,300 people living in close quarters in the searing summer heat hits like a punch to the stomach. The air is so thick it is nearly impossible to breathe. In the main cell, 700 men crouch on the floor like animals in a pen. Two barred gates separate them from the outside.

Some of the detainees, who come from Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East, have been living like this for eight months waiting to be repatriated. With almost no exceptions, Libya does not process asylum claims.

Bel Trew of The Times interviewing migrants detained at the centre
Bel Trew of The Times interviewing migrants detained at the centreTAHA JAWASHI FOR THE TIMES

“It’s extremely hard, there are not enough toilets, there are many fights for water and food,” said Shahadat, 38, from Bangladesh, weak in the heat.

He was arrested in May and is waiting to be repatriated, after losing $7,000 to smugglers and kidnappers. “The authorities are trying their best but you can barely sleep. It’s a nightmare,” he said. Inmates have set up an impromptu barber and washing station close by but disease spreads fast.

Behind Shahadat, dozens of Bangladeshi migrants were lined up cross-legged on the dirt floor, awaiting their turn to eat. Fights broke out when a different group from Mali claimed that they had jumped the queue. Supplies for lunch — a stale sandwich, juice carton and glass of water — were running out.

Anes al-Azabi, one of the centre’s heads, said that there were only four days of food left. After that, if the centre could not secure government funding or a new deal with a charity, the guards would have to bring in their own supplies.

 Read full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/food-runs-short-amid-squalor-of-libya-s-packed-detention-centres-tpp98gkgl
PHOTO: TAHA JAWASHY

Antiquities experts call for war on Isis looting in Syria and Iraq

The TimesBel Trew, Tripoli
British antiquities experts are calling for an international body to investigate and repatriate stolen artefacts to counter the looting and sale of antiquities from the Middle East.

The pillaging of archaeological sites and museums as well as illicit digging has surged in the security breakdown that followed the 2011 Arab Spring, becoming a multibillion-pound trade.

Satellite imagery of areas in countries such as Egypt and Syria now shows pock-marked landscapes, where opportunist thieves, including jihadist groups such as Islamic State, have dug for treasures to be sold on international markets.

Neal Spencer, keeper of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum, said that the only way to try to stop antiquities trafficking, and with it the destruction of ancient sites and thefts from museums, was for better international co-operation and the creation of a full database of objects.

“Archaeologists, museums, law enforcement bodies and reputable art dealers and auction houses must collaborate to create an open, transparent and freely accessible online platform to trace objects moving around,” he told The Times.

Read full article here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/antiquities-experts-call-for-war-on-isis-looting-3xz5d59lt

PHOTO: DOMINIQUE DERDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES