People smuggler scorns efforts of Europe's leaders to tackle migrant crisis

People smuggler scorns EU leaders over migration crisis. Credit: ITV News

As the politicians met earlier, a people smuggler has poured scorn on their efforts.

Speaking to ITV News on condition his identity was disguised, the man called Ahmad insisted he provides a humanitarian service, helping desperate people out of dire situations.

He met ITV News Middle East Correspondent Geraint Vincent in Istanbul:

I don’t know what I was expecting, but Ahmad didn't really look like a people traf?cker. He had a fresh face, a ready smile, and, he told me, a clear conscience.

Because, you see, Ahmad doesn't regard himself as a traf?cker, or a smuggler, or any of the other criminal terms used to describe people like him by the European authorities. He is, he says, a ‘boat trip organiser’.

Ahmad earns his living by taking groups of between 10 and 30 migrants from the Turkish coast to the islands of Greece, and sometimes further, to Sicily. He charges one thousand dollars a head for transport to Greece, and 6000 to Italy.

When I told him that Europe’s leaders were holding crisis talks on how to deal with the migrants crisis he was scornful. He found talk of military against the smugglers’ boats laughable.

What are they going to do, he asked, blow up every boat on Turkey’s coast? He pointed out that there are thousands and thousands of people waiting to make the journey across the mediterranean, and that the boats leave from across the middle east and north africa. ‘It’s impossible to stop them’ he said.

The journey over the Med sea is perilous. Credit: ITV News

I put it to him that he was taking advantage of desperate people, and that Europe holds people like him responsible for turning the Med into a graveyard. But morality has a different gauge on the other side of the sea.

‘I am making money,’ he said. ‘But I am also helping people. My passengers know the risks, but they don’t care. They come from places where they have seen death every day. The Europeans can say what they want. Maybe they should go and see what it’s like to live in a war zone.’

Ahmad had some spare time to talk to me because he was not sailing this week due to adverse weather conditions. He’ll be back to work as soon as he can though. Demand is high.