UAE and Egypt used for migrants trafficking to Libya and Italy
LA VALLETTA (ITALPRESS/MNA) – European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson confirmed that Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Alexandria in Egypt served as transit points between Dhaka in Bangladesh and Benghazi in Libya for Bangladeshi nationals.
Replying to a parliamentary question by Maltese Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer, she said Brussels was “closely monitoring” the central Mediterranean migration route, including the transfer of Bangladeshi nationals from Libya to Italy.
The issue of chartered flights ferrying immigrants to Benghazi was recently raised by a high-ranking Maltese government delegation in a first meeting with eastern Libyàs supreme commander General Khalifa Haftar.
In its reply the Commission said that talks on migration and mobility between the EU and Bangladesh in March this year established a permanent forum to stop people smuggling. The Commission also noted that on 6 June it proposed new legislative, operational, and diplomatic measures to deal with the increasing illicit use of commercial transport by criminal networks to facilitate irregular migration into the EU. The proposed toolbox includes measures to “suspend or revoke the operating licence of an EU air carrier” if they no longer meet the good repute requirements of transport legislation. Another proposal is to strengthen cooperation and information exchange between the Commission, Frontex, and Eurocontrol to better monitor flights and gather data on emerging routes and patterns of irregular migration.
However, the European Commission is unaware of investigations into criminal groups using Syrian airline Cham Wings for people trafficking into Europe. “There are indications that the routes used to reach Libya from Dhaka (Bangladesh) are direct connections between Dubai and Benghazi or Alexandria and Benghazi… the Commission has no information on investigations concerning illegal activity by criminal groups using specific airlines like Cham Wings and others,” Johansson replied.
A confidential Frontex report singled out Cham Wings as one of the airlines used by the criminal groups to smuggle people between Damascus in Syria and Benghazi in Libya.
Cham Wings is owned by Syrian businessman Issam Shammout. The airline is part of his family business, the Shammout Group, which is active in the automotive, steel, aviation, freight forwarding, construction, and real estate sectors. On 20 July last year, the EU lifted sanctions against Cham Wings, after the company was blacklisted in December 2021 for its alleged role in ferrying migrants seeking to cross illegally into Poland from Belarus that summer. However, a day later the EU placed Shammout on its sanctions list, calling him a “leading business person operating in Syria”. Shammout is contesting the sanctions against him at the European Court of Justice.
Cham Wings, which does not operate to EU countries, remains subject to sanctions imposed by the United States and pressure is building within the EU to follow the US.
-photo Agenzia Fotogramma –