Syrians pay €8,500 for yacht to Europe

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Red cross personnel in Sicily await the arrival of shipwrecked migrants. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP
11:08 CEST+02:00
Syrians paid traffickers €8,500 each for a place on board a yacht to Europe, seen as one of the safer methods of fleeing their country’s civil war across the Mediterranean.

Ninety-nine passengers embarked in Pozzallo, Sicily, after being smuggled across the Mediterranean by three Syrians.

Each of the adults paid €8,500 for the privilege, while small children were given a slight discount, Tgcom24 reported.

The passengers were discovered when a merchant vessel came to their rescue after the yacht’s engine broke down. They were then taken to Pozzallo while the three traffickers were stopped by police.

The people smugglers were named as Ahmmed Sabaji, 25, Moustafa Haj Slima, 29, and 31-year-old Almotassem Billah Harroum. They were identified by passengers and thanks to photographs taken during the voyage.

While a number of traffickers have been charged for their ruthless treatment towards boat migrants, the yacht passengers said they were in the hands of an experienced crew who placed importance on their safety.

The 23 children were put in life jackets and the passengers were given plentiful food and water, Tgcom24 reported.

One passenger said they had emptied their bank account in order to make the journey: “I was scared to live in Syria and I escaped with my family. I took all of my savings from the bank and I invested it to carry out a safe crossing for me, my wife and our children.”

Another agreed the high cost was worth it to cross the Mediterranean, which is now the world’s most dangerous migrant route. “To not die, they were paid a lot, but we arrived,” they said.

Their testimony comes as the horrific conditions in which around 800 boat migrants died were revealed by survivors.

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Passengers were locked in the hold of a 20-metre boat when it capsized, leaving around 800 people dead. Just 24 people survived the disaster, while 28 bodies were recovered.

Around 21,000 boat migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year. Around 1,750 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2015 to date, around 30 times more than during the same period in 2014, according to data from the International Organization for Migration.

READ MORE: EU under fire as migrant boat horror revealed

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