Migrants traffickers invented a new scheme. How to fight it?

Human traffickers and their accomplices invented new tactics in Mediterranean. Overall, open taxiing of migrants sharply declined, as NGOs entered bumpy waters of growing resistance to lawlessness and shameless smuggling. One of the examples of their recent tactics went online, when Spanish journalist investigated into smugglers tactics. A fake Libyan Coast Guard boat escorted dinghies full of migrants, and coordinated rendezvous with NGO ships. Very simple but very effective scheme, until at last, in 2017, traffickers gang was arrested (with the exception of NGO, of course, they marvelously, came out of these stories with flying colors, as heroes and near-saints).

Ever ingenious traffickers invented a new scheme. Meet a new NGO organization called Alarm Phone https://alarmphone.org, having its’ own multi language website with ready-to-use, very detailed guidebooks for migrants. Migrants “rescue” (taxi) scheme isn’t as smooth as old one, but it works, nevertheless. Migrants or traffickers, it doesn’t really matter, call Alarm Phone using phone numbers given on website, and after that, Alarm “activists” alert Coast Guards of coastal States and of course, mainstream media. Migrants in their boats, drifting some 30+ miles (outside Libyan waters) in the sea, are to patiently wait until somebody comes and rescues them. “Rescue” means “taxiing” – it’s just a new Orwellian language in action.

The beauty of the scheme is, it stirs a lot of public attention, coaxing coastal States into action – “rescue”, that is. Responsible for maritime safety national agency sooner or later, but has to order its’ people and ships to react, and pick up “distressed” migrants. If there’s merchant ship unlucky enough to be nearby, the ship will be ordered to interrupt her voyage, and take part in staged, feigned “distress” scheme.

Migrants pay for their passage to Europe. “Fee” is covering all the way from migrants country of residence to European blessed shores. It means, that merchant mariners, by act of “rescuing” migrants, cover Med crossing, most essential part of migrants journey. If migrants reach Europe, their “fee” brought them what they’ve been bargaining for. Technically it means, that merchants ships “rescue” involvement enrich human traffickers and of course, their accomplices, be they “activists” or idiots, or whatever else – migrants trafficking business is very diverse and multicultural.

The new scheme is bad news for merchant marine, there’s already an example of such scheme at work, and dangers it implies, concerning merchant ships and specifically, Masters:
Captain blamed in January “migrants tragedy” http://maritimebulletin.net/2019/02/10/captain-blamed-in-january-migrants-tragedy/

The difference between then and now is, ships are ORDERED by authorities to take part in “rescue operation”, they can’t avoid it without inevitable criminal prosecution. So what options do seamen have, to avoid “rescue” involvement? One’s to pick migrants, and deliver them to nearest Libyan port. Not a good option, though. Firstly, all the NGOs, media and politicians will yell a bloody murder and blame Master for endangering migrants lives by returning them to the place they sailed from. Thankfully, they don’t as yet, demand from ship owner to refund migrants fees, in such a case.
But there’s much more dangerous outcome of such act – migrants may riot and take crew and ship as hostages, as it already happened:
“Ship seized by migrants in Libya” http://maritimebulletin.net/2018/11/12/ship-seized-by-migrants-situation-unclear/

The only option I can think of, is feigned breakdown, with all respective paperwork and everything else what’s required. Better suffer the loss of several hours than to waste away several days/weeks and sustain substantial material losses, or very probably, encounter migrants riot and become hostages.

Voytenko Mikhail
February 12, 2019





My name is Mikhail Voytenko, I’m Russian, professional merchant marine navigator, by education and former experience. I own and run Maritime Bulletin website for more than 10 years. I've been involved in solving a number of piracy hijack cases, including the hijack of ro-ro FAINA, loaded with tanks. It was me who made public, and unravel, freighter ARCTIC SEA mystery. I've been also closely involved in a number of maritime disaster, one of them being MSC FLAMINIA major fire.