Skip to main content

Syria to Libya to the EU: how people-smugglers operate

Survivors of the June shipwreck off the coast of Greece stand outside a warehouse at the port in Kalamata town
— Beirut (AFP)

For desperate Syrians, a WhatsApp message saying "I want to go to Europe" can be all they need to start a treacherous journey to Libya and then across the Mediterranean.

Twelve years after conflict broke out when President Bashar al-Assad repressed peaceful pro-democracy protests, Syrians are still trying to escape a war that has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and pulled in foreign powers and global jihadists.

At least 141 Syrians were among up to 750 migrants thought to have been on a trawler that set off from Libya and sank off Greece in June, relatives and activists told AFP. Most of the passengers are feared drowned.

AFP interviewed Syrian smugglers and migrants about the journey to migrant hub Libya, notorious for rights abuses, and then across the central Mediterranean -- the world's deadliest migrant route.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.