Friday, April 24, 2015

Is the Jammeh regime complicit in the human trafficking syndicate being investigated by the Italian authorities?

Africans/Gambian immigrants arriving in Catania
The Italian authorities have arrested a Tunisian and a Syrian.  Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, is the Tunisian who captained the boat that sank on Sunday, drowning 800 Africans, the majority of whom were reported to be from the Gambia, the smallest country in Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world.  A crew member identified as Mahmoud Bikhit, 25, from Syria, was also arrested.  The two were trying to blend in but were identified by the African immigrants.

Evidence continue to mount, linking these human traffickers to an organized criminal syndicate in Libya and Italy.  According to HuffPost, Italy, the two denied the charges of illegal transportation of immigrants and Malek face an additional charge of reckless endangerment of human lives.
Malek and Bikhit arrested and in custody (pictured here) 

The caravan route across the Sahara is a well-beaten path of the African immigrants that links the main population centers of western African of  Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and The Gambia with Libya, and onward to Italy suggesting that the criminal ring extends beyond the Italy - Libya axis to connect the human trafficking syndicate to far flung places.

The Gambian capital city of Banjul is one such center as we have tried to show here where "agents" charge upwards of D 100,000 or $ 2,000 per passenger per trip to Bamako in full view of the authorities.  It is inconceivable that the authorities are unaware of what's going on when most, if not all, of all those making the trip are young Gambians.

Although the U.S State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report identified the Gambia as a source and destination country for the trafficking in minors who are subject to forced labor and sex trafficking, it appears that the traffickers have focused their attention more and more on the equally lucrative "Back Way" route to Libya.  It must be noted that the same Report found The Gambia not to be in full compliance with the minimum standards for the eradication of trafficking.  The regime was also found to be making any effort in that direction.

Although The Gambia has one of the most stringent laws that the regime brandishes as evident of its commitment to the elimination of the scourge, the State Department found that there has been a dramatic decline in anti-trafficking law enforcement during the reporting period.

The conclusion of the State Department's Report did not come as a surprise because of the intimate relations between the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the "agents" who transport the youth to Mali.  These agents are known to the authorities in The Gambia.  They are also known to have close ties to the regime and are prominent members of the APRC which is the ruling party.