100 miles off the coast of Sicily lies the island of Lampedusa, where a month ago, 360 African migrants on their way to Europe lost their lives after the dangerously overcrowded ship they were on capsized. About a month later on November 8th, it was revealed that the deplorable transport conditions surrounding the tragedy, modern day remnants of the infamous colonial age transatlantic slave ships, were only a small part of the flourishing human trafficking circles between Europe and Africa.
The majority of the victims of the shipwreck were Somali and Eritrean, who had paid thousands of dollars to a gang which specialized in moving migrants from East Africa to Libya. There, the migrants boarded dilapidated ships to Europe, but not before being sufficiently dehumanized by a second gang who raped the women and tortured the men who fought back.
Although most of the major perpetrators of this specific case have been arrested, this tragedy still highlights the underlying and often ignored problem of human trafficking. According to Europol, German authorities have identified around 500 cases of human trafficking involving sexual exploitation of West African women in Germany and surrounding countries, including Italy and Sweden. Of course, the first step to curtail the international human trafficking trade would be to enforce stricter security measures in terms of customs and properly checking in every passenger in every incoming foreign ship. However, the heart of the problem lies in the socioeconomic and political issues that reside in Europe that allows the human trafficking rings to flourish. By enforcing extremely strict immigration laws, European nations have simply forced potential immigrants to adapt desperate and illegal measures to attempt to sneak into Europe. Europe’s laws have simply shunted migrants to the shelter and mercy of gang members who had zero sympathy for them, only viewing them as financial assets. Once in Europe, the migrants were often placed in unregulated brothels or other places usually in lower socioeconomic class neighborhoods that the European authorities would often overlook in terms of law enforcement.
Of course, Europe is not blatantly oblivious to the problem and has taken steps to combat it. Although the German “Bundeskriminalamt” federal police president Jorg Ziercke has said that sharing information between countries was the first step to combat the trafficking circles, it is imperative that the European nations ultimately combat trafficking within their own borders. Only then will they begin to make progress on the more complex circles that link the trafficking rings together. Focusing more law enforcement attention on the poorer neighborhoods where human trafficking flourish and revising their outlook on immigration would perhaps be good first steps for European authorities to take down human trafficking once and for all.