The head of Austria’s anti-human trafficking force has claimed much of the profit of people smugglers in the Middle East and North Africa is making its way into the bank accounts of Islamic State.
Russian airstrikes have largely destroyed the ability of Islamic State to sell cheap oil on the black market, which, along with ransoms from kidnapping, was for a time their main source of income. Now according to Gerald Tatzgern, the head of Austria’s anti-human trafficking force, the group is being funded by people smuggling and is intentionally protracting the migrant crisis, reports Kurier.
“The financial gains of trafficking is flowing to Islamic State, but also to the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party],” Mr. Tatzgern said. The United Nations (UN) estimates that Islamic State makes approximately $300 million from human trafficking alone, a large source of income to cover its estimated $500 to $800 million cost to keep its fighters paid and armed.
According to the UN, Islamic State has even been staging attacks on migrant camps in neighbouring countries like Jordan in order to encourage migrants to flee to Europe. Mr. Tatzgern claims that the group is now expanding into Egypt in order to use the coast to send migrant boats directly to Greece, thereby skipping Turkey and getting around the EU-Turkey migrant deal.
Italian officials have claimed that there is no support from the Egyptian government to tackle the issue. Mr. Tatzgern claims this is because Egypt is looking for a similar deal to Turkey to get money to relieve their ailing tourist industry.
Most landings from Egypt take place on the Greek island of Crete and some experts warn that between 100,000 to 200,000 migrants could reach Europe this year.
Even the Balkan route, which is showing an increase in the numbers of migrants using the route again, is controlled by people smugglers with ties to Islamic State. The Chechen traffickers who facilitate much of the smuggling in the Balkans are believed to be giving money to Islamic State to ensure that more migrants will try and make the journey.
Another concern for European leaders is the proven history of Islamic State using the migrant crisis to smuggle in fighters to commit acts of terror on European soil. The recent arrests of three Syrians with connections to Islamic State in Germany this week is only the latest in a series of arrests of asylum seekers that have been proven to have links to the terror organisation.