“We start over at the end of the month.” On the phone with smugglers of illegal immigrants

“We start over at the end of the month.”  On the phone with smugglers of illegal immigrants

“There is a 35-strong, 40-horsepower motorized movement. The price is 1500 dinars. Thus began the conversation with a citizen from Côte d’Ivoire who promotes “caravans” from Tunisia to Italy on social media. When we contacted him privately for more information, he explained that the small boat would leave next week from Sfax towards Lampedusa. He starts asking for information about us: he wants to know where we are and what nationality we are. We improvise and say we are Tunisians but he stops at this point: “The caravan is only for Sub-Saharan Africa”. He stops answering, but in the meantime we have a conversation with another person who organizes this type of crossing, always from Sfax and always with the destination Lampedusa. His next bet departure is scheduled for the end of the month. He also wants 1,500 dinars to put us on a boat and take us to Italy, but we don’t have to give him this money: he doesn’t tell us who we should turn to but gives us additional information: “Everyone goes to the village (Sfax edited) with a picture”. And when we asked him how we would find out about our caravan once we had reached the Tunisian city by sea, he too stopped answering our questions.

We keep looking for personalities like this for more information and we are spoiled for choice on social networks, where there are real groups with which to “advertise” the crossings, especially in the direction of Italy, but there are also more promoters than those in Spain . We focus on the first and it only takes a few minutes to find the last, which in no time takes up our request for information. It turns out that he is the most expensive person we contacted: he wants 2,000 dinars per person to make the crossing.

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When we ask him if, in rough seas and trouble, someone will be available to help us, given what happened in Cutro, he tries to reassure us: “Now the weather is turbulent, I check the weather every day”. He tells us between the lines that there are no departures for the next few days. He seems willing to talk but to answer our question he seems to want to take precautions: «Leave me your number, I’ll call you later».

It is very likely that these people are not the ones who physically bring the migrants to Italy, because it is through scrolling through the groups that the figures of the “leader” appear, who willingly introduce themselves: “If you need a leader, I am available”. There are many messages like this, complete with a phone number to be dialed, indicating that “smugglers” are recruiting and that they do not organize the crossings themselves. Organizations seem to operate at different levels: there are those who organize migrants and bring them back, there are those who take them by sea, and obviously there are those who receive money and manage everything safely.

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