The National - News

Iraqi people smuggler making $100,000 a year


People smugglers are profiting from migrants desperate to reach Europe but show little regard for their lives.

British broadcaste­r Sky spoke to a smuggler in the northern Iraqi province of Erbil who claimed to be making $100,000 a year acting as part of an illegal network.

The man said business was “not stopping”, with routes starting from Turkey and Iraq either heading north to Belarus, or west across the sea to Greece and Italy.

“More and more people want to go but due to the Belarus visa not being available currently, they can’t,” he said.

Twenty-seven migrants bound for Britain died on Wednesday when their boat sank while crossing the English Channel.

Four suspected smugglers were arrested on suspicion of being linked to the sunken boat, France’s interior minister said.

In his Sky interview, the smuggler said small boats used to reach the UK would be modified in an attempt to fit in far more people.

“We collect and transfer people to the UK via Dunkirk, where we put them on boats.

I told [the smuggler] we wanted to go home but he said: ‘You can’t go back. I spent money on you. You have to deal with it’



“Normally these boats hold five people, but we strengthen them with metal rods and a motor so we can send more than 15 to 20 people on them.”

Thousands of migrants have become embroiled in a political dispute at the border between Belarus and Poland in recent weeks.

The Mahmoud family described their experience as being treated “like animals” after paying smugglers $30,000 to enable their journey to Europe.

Mother Yagdar Mahmoud said they were at times left without money for food and told they could not turn back.

“When we went to Belarus, we didn’t even know how to get enough money to eat. He [the smuggler] said: ‘I don’t have money for you’. I told him we wanted to go home but he said, ‘You can’t go back. I spent money on you. You have to deal with it.’ ”

The family were eventually sent home to Iraq after crossing into Poland from Belarus, a journey they said was aided by Belarusian border forces.

Daughter Bria Mahmoud said their ordeal had left them without a future, but they would be willing to risk the journey again.

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