From The Guardian
A militia in Libya’s most notorious smuggling town has made a rare show of force against the area’s influential gangs, capturing some of those alleged to be responsible for the drowning of up to 300 people on Thursday.
The Masked Brigade, a militia that says it upholds law and order in Zuwara in the absence of a functioning Libyan state, seized three men this weekend.
It accused them of responsibility for the sinking of a boat carrying between 400 and 500 people hoping to reach Europe.
The boat began to sink while still in Libyan waters, and the bodies of many of those who drowned washed up on the seashore close to Zuwara.
Rescuers saved 198 people and 110 bodies have been recovered, leaving as many as 200 people unaccounted for.
This visceral reminder of the human cost of the town’s primary source of income prompted protests from sections of Zuwaran society.
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Ethiopia - IOM has helped 3,478 vulnerable Ethiopian migrants stranded by the conflict in Yemen, including 229 war casualties, to return home. The majority were stranded en route to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Over the past three weeks, 57 of the returnees have required medical assistance. “We were on board a truck which was taking us to the Saudi border when gunmen started shooting at us. Several of us were shot and two men were killed. The truck had to stop and we were captured by armed men,” said Alemat Fitsum, an 18-year-old returnee, who was shot in the arm.
IOM organized his return to Ethiopia and referred him to an Ethiopian hospital. Other returnees included migrants suffering burns, gunshot wounds and broken bones – some of them due to the conflict, others inflicted by traffickers, who tortured them to extort ransoms from their families.
Another returnee, Kasim Yesuf, 20, from the Northern Ethiopian province of Wollo, said that his family paid smugglers everything they had to send him to Yemen. But in Yemen he was captured by traffickers, beaten and told to call his family and ask for 5,000 (Saudi) Riyals (USD 1,333) in ransom money.
METEMA, Ethiopia (AP) — The mood in the border town of Metema these days is quiet and watchful.
Dozens of houses on the hot, dusty main road that stretches from Ethiopia into Sudan look like they have been hastily closed. Guards grimly patrol the border, stopping anyone who looks like an illegal migrant. The nightclubs and bars are emptier than usual, although they still attract Sudanese who are not allowed to drink alcohol in their own country under Shariah law.
Metema, with about 100,000 people, is one of a handful of towns across the region that serve as feeders for a booming trade in migrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan, many hoping to make their way to Europe. Life here is now a cat-and-mouse game: The authorities are cracking down, yet the migrants just keep coming, often risking death.
Since 30 Ethiopian Christians who passed through Metema were killed by the Islamic State group in Libya a few months ago, the Ethiopian government has become far more vigilant. It claims it has detained 200 smugglers across the country, and police say about 28 of them are from Metema.
The effect of the crackdown is clear in this town. But while the flow of migrants is down from about 250 a day, it's still strong at 100 to 150, according to Teshome Agmas, the mayor.
"It's just a pity that people choose to endanger their lives in an effort to move out of their country and work in inhumane conditions abroad," he said.
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By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Human traffickers in Ethiopia could face life in jail or the death penalty under a bill presented to parliament on Tuesday aimed at curbing the illegal flow of people in and out of the Horn of Africa country.
The move comes two months after at least 30 Ethiopian migrants were shot and killed by Islamic State militants in Libya and after others have died while heading to Europe on rickety boats across the Mediterranean.
The legislation, proposed by the Ministry of Justice, contains a range of penalties for trafficking and smuggling including fines of up to 500,000 birr ($7,500) and the death penalty in cases where victims suffer severe injury or death.
The bill must be approved by the House of Representatives, which could take several months, officials said.
Although Ethiopia's economy is growing at one of Africa's fastest rates, unemployment still remains high and thousands of people opt to take treacherous treks across the Sahara to reach Europe via the Mediterranean or brave the Gulf of Aden to reach wealthy Gulf states in search of jobs.
For a period of several months beginning in late 2013, Saudi Arabia deported more than 163,000 Ethiopians it said lived in the Kingdom illegally.
The U.S. State Department urged Addis Ababa last year to amend and strengthen its laws to tackle people smuggling, toughen penalties, boost judicial understanding and police capacity, as well as improve oversight of recruitment agencies.
The draft legislation provides immunity to victims and proposes the formation of a national committee led by Ethiopia's deputy prime minister to coordinate anti-trafficking activity.
Sudanese police say they have freed 47 foreign nationals being held by human traffickers in the east of the country.
Police director of Kassala state in eastern Sudan, General Omer Almukhtar, said Saturday that the people were freed after heavy clashes between security forces and 10 heavily armed men.
The general revealed that the hostages - all adult males - were from Eritrea and Ethiopia. He said the traffickers were also foreign, but refused to be drawn on their exact nationalities.
"We clashed with the gang groups at the Bahar area on the border between Sudan and Eritrea and we managed to free the hostages and arrest the perpetrators," he said.
Human trafficking is widespread on the border between Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Hundreds of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in Sudan have been abducted and taken as hostages for ransoms. Some human rights organizations have accused officials in the local border authorities in Sudan of participating in the trade.
Sudan has refuted these claims.
Addis Ababa June 24/2015
The Ethiopian government says it is working with the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, to repatriate 80 suspected human smugglers as the country struggles to stem the wave of migrants leaving the country.
The chief of the Illegal Human Trafficking Crime Investigation Division of Ethiopia's federal police, Wondimu Chama, said Thursday to the Ethiopian news agency that they succeeded extraditing five suspects from Kenya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Tanzania. Wondimu said the police division has been working with Interpol to identify human smugglers abroad who will face charges in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government said 200 suspected human smugglers have been arrested in the country to try to stop citizens from moving to Europe illegally. The government's action comes after 30 Ethiopian migrants were killed in Libya by Islamic extremists.
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Anti-Mafia prosecutor Calogera Ferrara said his officers have dismantled a people-smuggling network and arrested 14 men – mostly Eritreans – in Sicily, Milan and Rome. Ferrara says he expects another eight to be detained in the next few days.
Read full investigative story at NewsWeek
'A business based on human goods'
Ferrara began investigating people-smugglers the morning of the Lampedusa sinking in October 2013. He directed his officers to ask the survivors for the phone numbers of the men who sent them. By tapping those lines and tracing calls to other numbers, he built a phone tree of thousands of numbers whose branches stretch from Africa to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and into the US.In 18 months, he and his team recorded more than 30,000 calls. Those transcripts, some of which Ferrara made available to Newsweek, reveal the existence of several wholly new, multinational organised crime syndicates, together worth around $7bn (€6bn) a year. They also identify the Ethiopian man who is among the busiest and most sophisticated of the new people traffickers. "He is a merciless criminal that, for money, has created a business based on 'human goods'," says Ferrara. The Ethiopian's network offers "a complete service to migrants, running from the centre of Africa to Libya to Italy to another country from there. It includes all accommodation, transport and food". It is, says Ferrara, a criminal operation like no other. No name, no fixed base, a fluid membership and, most remarkably, "totally without risk". "With drugs, if you lose the drugs, you lose your money," says Ferrara. "But in this case, you pay in advance. Even if the migrants drown, Ermias has already been paid."
Ermias Ghermay's clients describe him as about 40, short and stocky. In conversation, he seems uneducated but street-smart: dynamic, plausible and fluent in several languages, including Arabic and Tigrinya, the ancient tongue of northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. "Really smart," says one Palermo police officer. "He has the capacity to organise an international criminal enterprise that is very complicated – lots of people, lots of contacts, spread everywhere, and moving money and people between them. He's a professional."
Over the months Ferrara has been tapping Ghermay's calls, the Ethiopian has given glimpses of his operation in asides and casual boasts. Ghermay, it transpires, has been working as a people smuggler for about a decade. Like many others, he bases himself on the Libyan coast, mostly in the capital, Tripoli or, in the port of Zuwarah to the west.
Read full investigative story at NewsWeek
Militants from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) are believed to have kidnapped 86 Eritrean refugees from a smugglers' caravan in western Libya.
The militants struck at dawn on Wednesday morning, stopping the vehicle before separating Christian refugees from their Muslim counterparts, according to Meron Estafanos, the co-founder of the Stockholm-based International Commission on Eritrean Refugees.
Many of the refugees – among them 12 women – were forced to lie about their faith. Those who claimed to be Muslim were grilled on their knowledge of the Koran, as well as their prayer habits.
Wednesday's kidnapping bears chilling echoes of a similar incident in April when Isil militants kidnapped 79 Eritrean and Ethiopian Christian refugees. Days later, more than thirty of the men were beheaded or shot dead in scrubland while young survivors were forced to watch.
Details of Wednesday's attack will emerge in the coming days as a handful of escapees tell their stories. At least nine men were able to dive silently from the back of the jihadists' speeding truck.
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AP/US News & World Report
Official: Ethiopia's government detains 200 suspected human smugglers, others being sought.
By ELIAS MESERET, Associated Press
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Two hundred suspected human smugglers have been detained as part of the Ethiopian government's efforts to stem the number of citizens trying to illegally migrate to Europe, a senior official said.
The government is looking for 80 other alleged smugglers who are conducting overseas operations, Ethiopian Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam told the Ethiopian News Agency late Sunday.
"The detentions are part of the government's efforts to bring perpetrators to justice," he said. "People should understand the fact that illegal migration is costing lives and leaving many injured. The youth in particular should stop considering migrating as an option and we are carrying out works to help in job creation at home."
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