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TOPIC: human trafficking

Migrant Lives

Why The "Captains" Of Migrant Trafficking Boats Are Often The First Victims

Since 2015, Europe's strategy to stop irregular migration has focused on arresting so-called smugglers. But those steering the vessels are usually desperate migrants themselves, forced to take the helm.

ROME — For the past two years, Mohammed has been living in Antwerp, Belgium. He works as a dockworker, although he does not have a contract. Originally from Freetown, Sierra Leone, he arrived in Italy from Libya in May 2016 on a fishing boat.

“The sea was bad, and everyone was vomiting,” he recalls.

Then, salvation: the Italian coast guard rescued them and brought them to Sicily. But when they arrived in port, Mohammed discovered Italian authorities were accusing him of a crime: aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

He was the boat’s cabin boy, and migrants on the boat identified him as a smuggler. He was arrested and sent to prison, where he remained for three years as the trial took place.

“I could only call home after a year and a half. That’s when I learned that my father had died. He had been sick, but I hadn’t even known,” Mohammed says. “My family was sure I had died at sea because they had not heard from me.”

He speaks slowly on the phone, struggling to remember. This was the most difficult time of his life.

“I had gone to Libya to work, but the situation in the country was terrible, so I decided to leave. I paid Libyan traffickers,” he recalls.

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Return Of ‘Putin The Diplomat’ - What He Got In Tehran, What’s Next

Vladimir Putin has spent much of the past five months hunkered down with his generals and bankers, managing the military and economic upheaval he triggered by invading Ukraine.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Aside from a few quick visits to nearby former Soviet Republics, the Russian president’s visit to Tehran yesterday (where he met leaders of both Iran and Turkey face-to-face) was his first time back on the road since Feb. 24. And Putin could rightfully claim some small, but meaningful diplomatic victories that confirm the deepening divisions in the world, according to Russia’s state news agency Tass.

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The 'British Dream' Is A Dangerous Trap For Too Many Migrants

The United Kingdom is seen by migrants as the promised land. Many are prepared to embark on a perilous journey to get there. But on arrival, they often find that life is not what they expected. Some even discover working conditions resembling slavery.

LONDON — Huong was full of dreams. “I thought I’d live like a queen in the United Kingdom, that I’d eat well, that I’d be well-dressed and find an easy job with a high salary,” the Vietnamese young woman recalls. Her neighbors had a close relation who emigrated to the UK and regularly sent them money. “They built a beautiful house and bought themselves a huge car,” she remembers.

So she went on a quest for a migration agent. The British dream is the cause of a migration wave during which thousands of migrants from impoverished countries risk it all to reach the British shores. At the end of this perilous journey, far from finding the Holy Grail they had hoped for, many fall into the clutches of traffickers, having to work in conditions of modern slavery.

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Video Of Chained Woman Shines Light On China's Treatment Of Mental Illness

A recent video of a chained woman has raised the alarm of the poor treatment of the mentally ill in China. It's worse for women in rural areas, where the stigma around mental illness is high.

Just before Chinese New Year ended recently, a video went viral on China’s web. In a shabby space attached to a house in Feng County in Jiangsu Province, a woman, named Yang Mouxia, is seen wearing a thin top in the chilly weather. She has an iron chain and a lock around her neck.

The woman has a mental disorder. She is the mother of eight children and the wife of Dong Moumin. Since the exposure of Yang’s living conditions, several people online asked if she is the same person, who went by the name of Li Ying, who'd disappeared from Sichuan Province 26 years ago at the age of twelve.

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Jan Koehler and Jonathan Goodhand

Inside The Taliban's Laissez-Faire Policy On Drug Trafficking

Unlike ISIS-K (Islamic State Khorasan), drug cultivation and trafficking are not an ideological matter for the new rulers of Afghanistan — more likely a bargaining chip in negotiations with the West.

In the frontier town of Zaranj on Afghanistan’s border with Iran, young men jostle one another as they cram into pickups that leave at regular intervals to be smuggled across the border. Human trafficking is one of the few sectors of the Afghan economy that is thriving. Another is drugs.

Some 950 kilometers to the east of Zaranj, on a remote and cold mountain pass, men with backpacks follow the narrow path to the border-crossing at Tabai, before beginning their descent into the “tribal areas” of Pakistan. Hidden in their loads are bags of heroin, bound for markets in Peshawar and Karachi, with much of it ending up on the streets of the UK.

The trade in drugs and people are growing in importance as other sectors of the economy contract or shut down and poverty deepens.

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Giacomo Tognini

Another Consequence Of Venezuela Crisis: A Sex Trafficking Boom

The economic collapse has created opportunities for Colombian gangs to exploit Venezuelan women and transport them abroad.

SAN JOSE — Their nightmare begins in Venezuela, where the economic crisis ravaging their country makes the young women and girls — some as young as 11 or 12 — particularly vulnerable. Colombian gangs and paramilitary groups take advantage to manipulate them, and then shuttle them across the border to the El Dorado international airport in Bogota, where they're boarded on planes to be trafficked as sex workers in a range of countries across Latin America.

This is the fate that has befallen tens of thousands of Venezuelans in recent years, according to an investigation carried out recently by the Mexican newspaper El Universal. A large number of the victims end up in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama. In Mexico, traffickers pay between $700 and $950 to immigration officials at Mexico City's international airport to allow Venezuelan women into the country, the newspaper found.

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Fabio Albanese

How Migrants' Cellphones Help Unmask Smuggler Tactics

CATANIA — On the horizon, the Libyan coast is still visible — perhaps it's the area around Zuwarah along the border with Tunisia — suggesting that the small wooden boat carrying migrants across the Mediterranean departed in plain daylight.

Compared to the decrepit inflatable dinghies that often sink in these waters, this one is barely crowded. One of the passengers smiles in the knowledge that the long and treacherous voyage will ultimately lead to a better life abroad. Some wear unconvincing life jackets. And the youngest migrants hide in the boat's small bilge. There is little conversation: only some prayers, the roar of the motor, and the sound of the waves.

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Birgit Svensson

How Egypt Became The New Hub For Human Trafficking

In towns and cities around the Nile delta, fishermen are selling their boats to a local mafia outfit, which controls a burgeoning human trafficking racket.

BURDSH EL-BURULLUS — Ibrahim sits on the beach and watches the fishing boats float by. Here, halfway between Alexandria and Damietta, the sand is the finest and the Mediterranean is at its calmest. The 54-year-old wears a jellabiya, the traditional ankle-length gown of Egyptian men. His expression has a dreamy quality as he looks out across the water.

Like pearls on a string, the fishing boats set out to sea in a line. But fishing in broad daylight? "No," answers Ibrahim. "The boats are transporting refugees."

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Migrant Lives
Mudassar Shah

Scared And Jobless, Afghan Youth Turn To Human Smugglers

JALALABAD — It's early morning in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan. Haroon Sarwari, 17, and Manzoor Ali, 18, are wearing their backpacks and walking quickly to get a taxi to reach Kabul on time.

These close friends have laid out plans to travel to Europe illegally with the help of a smuggling agent. Haroon's cousins managed to get to Germany three months before, so his father, Sarwar Khan, supports the plan.

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Francesco Semprini

Trafficking Dreams And Death, The Migrant Smugglers Of Libya

SABRATHA — It's just past 10 p.m., and Omar, Mohammed and Isa are driving on the Mediterranean coast highway that links the Libyan capital of Tripoli with the Tunisian border. In the distance, flares of burning natural gas emanating from the Mellitah oil terminal light up the pitch black night.

The three men, all in their twenties, work in the migrant trafficking industry. They're on their way to their "jobs" in the stretch of coast between Sabratha and the city of Zawiya further to the east. This is one of the most dangerous roads in Libya, close to areas controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS) and constantly monitored by U.S. drones overhead, ready to strike at any moment. A drone strike in Sabratha killed the local ISIS cell leader, the Tunisian-born Noureddine Chouchane, in February.

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Deniz Yücel

Billions In EU Aid To Turkey Hasn't Stopped Wave Of Refugees

Turkey is supposed to guard our borders against more refugees and receive financial aid for its services. But refugees fleeing to Europe across the Mediterranean keep coming.

AYVACIK — Less than six miles separate this town on Turkey's western coast from the Island of Lesbos, Greece. Nearly two-thirds of the 850,000 refugees who arrived in Europe via the Greek isles in 2015 crossed over to Lesbos.

But entering European Union territory via Turkey is supposed to have become impossible now, at least according to the Joint Plan of Action that the EU signed with Turkey at the end of November. This agreement stipulates that Turkey must patrol its coastlines more effectively and take back illegal refugees who crossed over from its territory. To be able to fulfill these terms, Turkey will receive 3 billion euros from Brussels and Turkish citizens will no longer have to apply for a visa to enter the EU.

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Christian Eckl

When Refugee Children Disappear

About 60,000 underage refugees have arrived in Germany this year without their parents. An alarming number are disappearing from custody. Experts warn they are vulnerable to both human traffickers and Islamists.

REGENSBURG —In Germany, when children disappear, alarm bells start to ring: Facebook fills with pleas for people to keep their eyes open for the missing kid, loved ones share photographs, entire communities rally around the search.

But these cases are for German kids, or children of immigrants who have been in the country for a long time. Nobody on Facebook mentions the missing children of refugees — whether they came to the country with their parents or on their own.

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