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Smuggling networks and smuggler profiles

The journey from the home country to Libya and then to Italy is usually organised, as described above, through a wide network of individuals, intermediaries, travel agents, acquaintances, so-called friends, go- betweens, brokers and passeurs strategically located along the hubs of the major routes and border crossings. In most cases, these people, usually young and mostly male, share the same nationality as the migrants or, in any case, speak the same language. Shared nationality and language seems to be one of the crucial assets facilitating the emergence of trust- relationships between migrants and service-providers.

The main service provided by intermediaries and brokers is the facilitation of the phases of the journey, providing the suitable contacts, information and/or facilities needed and, in many cases, personally accompanying the travellers along shorter or longer stages of the journey. Their business often consists in going up and down the same route, accompanying groups of people across the border and then coming back looking for another group of migrants willing to make the same journey. This stage is usually self-organised, since most of them work on an independent basis, and their services seem to be unplanned, without the form of hierarchical coordination found within a more structured criminal network. In most cases these intermediaries benefit greatly from existing relationships with corrupt officials, especially border police, and most recently the militias.

As mentioned above, in Libya, there are usually intermediaries and brokers from the same countries as the migrants who reside there and establish contacts with co-national migrants transiting Libya looking to go to Italy. These intermediaries play a crucial role since they speak the same language of the migrants and are able to provide them with all the organisational arrangements required to make the sea journey.

Intermediaries who reside in Libya are usually young men without a criminal background. They are often described as ‘sharp’ guys, who speak several languages and, consequently, are able to easily operate in different social and cultural settings. The knowledge of local languages represents one of their most important assets allowing them to create an effective network of contacts and service providers. Some of these intermediaries were would-be migrants themselves who decided to settle in Libya or in other transit countries and establish their own business related to irregular migration. As one Somali cultural mediator stressed: ‘once you begin to make money, you do not want to move somewhere else’

For migrants from the Horn of Africa, the organisation of the journey usually involves a number of contacts and relationships with several intermediaries, locally called dallala, who supervise and manage the various phases of the journey to Libya. These are the people who provide contacts, information and advice, but who also guide the migrants across the borders or procure clients for the drivers who transport the migrants across the desert. Sometimes dallala are migrants themselves who have picked up the necessary knowledge from their own attempts to migrate and who are in a position to exploit other migrants, in the process collecting the money they need to complete their own journey.

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