“If there is someone in Libya who wants to go to Italy, please contact us,” reads an Arab-language Facebook page. A telephone number with the Libyan country code is placed beneath the image of a full refugee ship. There’s a direct line to a smuggler of illegal immigrants as the comments on the page prove.
“When does the next ship leave for Italy?”
“Tomorrow, God willing.”
“How much is it, for me and my wife?”
“A thousand dollars each.”
There are many sites like these on the Internet, offering passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses and preferred routes.
Prices range from a few hundred U.S. dollars for an overland transport to tens of thousands of dollars for an all-inclusive package. The providers are part of an expanding international travel industry for people with no access to legal paths of immigration.
Their numbers are growing. More than 50 million people around the world are displaced, the highest number since the end of World War II. The United Nations estimates smugglers operating along the most important routes between Africa and Europe, North America and South America take in about $7 billion (€6.36 billion) per year.