Translate page with Google

Project February 22, 2017

The East African Migrant Smuggling Trail


Seascape view from aboard the German frigate ship, the Frankfurt am Main, in the Mediterranean Ocean off of Tripoli. Image by Michael Scott Moore. Libya, 2016.
View from aboard the German frigate, the Frankfurt am Main, in the Mediterranean off Tripoli. Image by Michael Scott Moore. Libya, 2016.

As the migrant crisis intensifies in the Mediterranean, more attention is being given to the smugglers who have built a lucrative business moving people from conflict zones in Africa to Europe. 

"The stories I hear from the migrant route in East Africa remind me of my time as a hostage," says Michael Scott Moore, who reported on the topic. "Pirate attacks at sea are down steeply off Somalia since 2013, but human trafficking is more lucrative than ever. No one seems sure whether the pirate groups and the current overland smuggling gangs are identical, but it's clear that hostage-taking and people-smuggling require the same habits and supplies—Kalashnikovs, Land Rovers, khat, bottled water; brutality."

Known pirates smuggled people across the Gulf of Aden, from Puntland to Yemen, in fishing skiffs, before the Yemeni civil war made that route unappealing. Now Somali gangs reach overland from northern Somalia right across Ethiopia, into Sudan and even Libya, to move Somalis toward Europe. Some migrants are even held hostage along the way.

In this project, Moore investigates abuses along the migrant trail and the extent of organized-crime involvement between Somalia and the shores of Europe.


teal halftone illustration of a family carrying luggage and walking


Migration and Refugees

Migration and Refugees