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We will treat immigrant-traffickers as terrorists”. A declaration of war that comes from Lady Federica Mogherini and then backed by Europe itself, following the latest tragedy in the Strait of Sicily, against human-traffickers. Because in addition to Isis, to Al Qaeda, the fierce civil wars there’s more than just making Africa and the Middle East the darkest corners of our sick planet. The investigation undertaken by the Sicilian magistrates have slammed the hard reality into our faces; behind the illegal immigration, a crazy business racket with shocking turnover run by unscrupulous criminal gangs.

Few are aware of the ‘human supermarket sale’ that meanders through the Sinai region and the plains of Africa. A river of people that end up in the hands of brutal criminal organizations. They often rely on the racketeers, to flee from war and poverty. But in many cases are seized, torn away from their villages and crammed into old carts to be dispatched across the parched desert. To return home or land on European shores, the captors demand large sums of money, subjecting them to all kinds of atrocities. The testimony of some survivors from Sunday night’s shipwreck speak about being whipped on the hands and back, buckets of icy water, punches in the face and chest. But it even worse: sometimes the victims are chained in a dark, underground cell or caves until the ransom is paid.

As time passes by, or the journey to the coasts continues, the ransom price goes up and the racketeer forces the martyrs to call their relatives, friends, acquaintances, even during the torture to obtain it. Migrants squeal while they pour melted plastic oto their backs, their hair is burned with kerosene and they receive electric shocks on their wet bodies to cause them more suffering and minimise the risk of their dying. When the agony ceases the traffickers speak with family and threaten them “If you don’t pay, they can sell a kidney or cornea”. Women and girls are often subjected to rapes carried out by groups while the weaker, unable to withstand so much pain, are abandoned in the desert, treated as waste. Some videos which have circulated on the net these days refugees ca be seen forced to kneel down, half-naked forbidden them even to look into the eyes of their ‘slave-masters’ who beats them with sticks and bars.

Treatments which serve to keep the racket alive and going, alive the racket, fattening them with more money. The kidnappers can even get to asking crazy ransoms for those in a state of absolute poverty: from 14 000 to 60 thousand dollars. For the traffickers, however, 500-600 dollars per person is not enough, to get the monto those old unseaworthy wrecks and can demand up to 5 thousand. And if they are not able to pay the amount, they “force them to work in inhumane conditions, beating them to raise the price and not bothering to negotiate the price” said a witness. The enclave immigrants are put into modern lagers until the money arrives. “When we left – recalled a young man spared from torture – the others were still there”. And only God knows how they’ve ended up. But if the cost of shipping is so high, in physical and economic terms, why don’t these people opt for a scheduled flight, as any normal traveler? Simple: they lack documents.

And so they end up embarking on dinghies, catamarans and boats with the risk of having to cling to corpses to survive a shipwreck, while the water makes its way into their lungs. All this while their slave-masters across the Mediterranean divide their portion of the pie of despair with the identification and expulsion centres run by criminal organisations in our country. “With immigrants you can make a lot more money than with drugs” is the phrase ‘made in Buzzi’ which has become the symbol of “Mafia Capital.” However, we cannot exonerate ourselves: to kill and undergo untold sufferings of these people is above all the despair that annihilates respect for themselves. And if we back home remain silent, and do not cry for the salvation of these people, or discriminate them in the streets, indifferent to their suffering, then a slap this time should really be landed straight on our faces.

Translation provided by Marina Stronati

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