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French weekly magazines review 26 April 2015


French magazines warn EU leaders about the dangers of egocentrism as Islamists look to exploit the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.


This week’s editorials are all about the humanitarian disaster taking place in the Mediterranean Sea after 800 migrants drowned on the night of 18 April on their way from Libya to Europe.

According to Le Canard Enchaîné the bodies are washing up on the Italian coast, adding to the 400 who died in another boat which capsized in the same waters on 12 April. That makes it 1,200 deaths and according to the satirical weekly, the equivalent of eight Germanwings Airbus planes in less than a week.

For Le Canard, at this stage EU leaders can no longer afford to sit by and watch Italy struggle with the emergency alone with thousands of Eritreans, Somalis, Syrians and Sudanese packed in warehouses in the port city of Lampedusa. That’s costing Italy 9 million euros per month, says Le Canard. The magazine wonders how the Europeans can dare criticise the Italians of encouraging the criminal networks to send more boat people through their rescue operations.

The satirical weekly‘s editorial was written a day before an EU emergency summit in Brussels doubled the assets of the existing border-surveillance and rescue operations. However Le Canard Enchaîné holds that in the context of rising unemployment and xenophobia in Europe, it will take more time and probably more deaths at sea to transform pious wishes into concrete results.

Le Figaro Magazine believes the EU leaders acted out of pressure and not by their own design, which is probably why there were no specific budget targets set for the operations.

Marianne agrees, saying it is hard to see how EU leaders can go beyond their current engagements. It paraphrases ex-French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner who accuses the EU of hiding behind its little finger and trying to avoid assuming its responsibilities, an attitude he suspects to be a hypocritical ploy to combat immigration.

In its own editorial, the New Observer L’Obs claims that the death at sea of 800 men, women and children off the Libyan coast on a single night was not a humanitarian disaster but the macabre consequence of cowardice and irresponsibility on the part of Europe. It argues that Europe must take the blame for barricading itself under the pressure of public opinion, shrivelled up in greed and rejection of helpless foreigners.

L’Obs recalls the Pope’s reference to the culture of good living which made Europeans out to be so egocentric to the point of becoming indifferent to pain of others. The holy pontiff spoke in the aftermaths of the Lampedusa tragedy in 2013.

In its own editorial Le Point puts forward its conviction that traffickers do understand such geo-political realities. The right-wing magazine publishes a profile of “the man who throws migrants into the sea”. His name: Ermias Ghermay, a Tripoli-based Ethiopian branded by the magazine as the “slave master and smuggler manning the route between Libya and Italy”.

According to Le Point, Italian intelligence agents overheard him recently bragging about having found his own America in Libya. One of his overloaded boats had just arrived the coast of Sicily and he was congratulating himself for the success of his mission.

As the publication reports, Ghermay is a household name not just south of the Sahara but also in the Horn of Africa, a real sesame for candidates seeking to make the “journey of hope to rich Europe”. Le Point says he is believed to have freighted the boat that capsized off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013 in which 366 migrants drowned.

The conservative weekly describes Ghermay as one of the few traffickers in Libya capable of holding a half thousand people in captivity before forcing them into boats. Le Point says it has identified agents of Ghermay’s empire in every country where human trafficking thrives   Ethiopia, Eritrea Ghana, the Ivory Coast.

He reportedly charges 4,600 euros per head for the trip across the Sahara to Libya, 1,800 for the trip to the coast of Sicily and 4,500 euros for VIP services in high-speed zodiacs heading to the Sicilian coastline. The racketeering includes 1,500 more for migrants needing passports. The traffickers also charge an additional 400 euros for tickets to Milan and 1,500 for a car ride to final destinations such as Switzerland, Germany and Sweden.

Le Point says Ghermay’s lucrative trade is facing a disaster after his brother Asghedom, who operates the European side of the operation, was arrested on 20 April alongside 20 accomplices.

In a chronicle entitled "Jihad and extreme misery", l'Express warns that Libya is on the verge of becoming a "launching pad for Islamist insurgents seeking to reach Europe". The magazine reports that most of the traffickers have acquired heavy weapons probably with the help of the Islamic State armed group which they use to defend themselves and to keep Italian coast guards away from their sea routes.

Some of the militias have reportedly been radicalised by the Islamic State group to incite inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred in the poor and wretched communities waiting for a chance to leave the "Libyan hell". L'Express says the arrest of some Muslim migrants in Sicily a week ago for allegedly throwing 12 Christians into the sea from their overcrowded boat may be the clearest evidence of an anti-Christian campaign taking place in Libya.


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