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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mohammed Ali Malek appears in court

Mahmud Birhit (left) and Mohammed Ali Malek

Mohammed Ali Malek was just a lowly deckhand on a fishing boat earning peanuts before he saw the opportunity of a lifetime - to take charge of a boat of human cargo looking for a better life in Europe. But it all went horribly wrong - 800 people died after being crammed into his 66 ft boat.

And he was ruthless.  Before leaving Libya, he's accused of using brute force to squeeze as many people as possible into the hold, and then locking them in.

Yesterday he appeared in court for the first time in Catania, Sicily, where he faces charges of multiple manslaughter.  His crewmate, Mahmud Birhit, a 26 year old Syrian is accused of aiding illegal immigration.

Malek lived in a run-down part of Sfax with his mother and brother and no one in the town is owning up to being his relative.  He is not married.

Fishing trawler captain Radwen Atitallah said Malek was hopelessly under-qualified to take charge of any ship, let alone one carrying so many people.  But he was poor and when traffickers offered him more money than he ever dreamed of, he jumped at the chance.

The people smugglers prowl the busy docks of Sfax, North Africa's biggest fishing port and not only find willing 'captains' to man the ships but also thousands of potential customers.

So where does this leave Europe?  Are they expected to welcome the whole world with open arms? 

Apparently not.  Only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe will be offered to refugees after an emergency crisis meeting was set up this week by EU leaders in Brussels.  The majority will be sent back as irregular migrants under a new programme set up by the EU's border agency Frontex.

Meanwhile, the human trafficking continues and many more lives will be lost.