BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC OnePanorama


Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 12:19 GMT
Transcript - Destination UK




DATE: 14:01:08

JEREMY VINE: Good evening, I'm Jeremy Vine and this is Panorama. This is Europe's immigration frontline with thousands of Africans trying to cross the Mediterranean for a share in Europe's wealth at a terrible human cost.

ATIKU: What you know how to say? Only God... on God help us.

VINE: Where are they now? We go in search of the men whose journey ended with them marooned on a fishing net, and in the sands of the Sahara we reveal yet more lives lost in this epic journey out of Africa.

Today the government announced what it called the biggest shake-up in Britain's border security and immigration controls in 40 years. More barriers to entry, more use of biometrics, fingerprints, more and faster deportations. Tonight we look at the bigger picture, at attempts being made to persuade people not to risk their lives by coming here in the first place, and at a new deal that has been struck with a country which is holding as million migrants destined for Europe and which was, until recently, Britain's sworn enemy.


PAUL KENYON: Remember this? A group of Africans setting off for Europe on a journey organised by people smugglers. When they launched the sea was calm, but it changed, the wind whipping up the waves.

How big were they?


I can't really explain. It can even move a house, the waves, it can move a house.


Just going up and down like this roughly, just pushing us here like this, and then there was a wind too.

VITO: So I shout: "Jesus save me. Jesus save me."

PAUL KENYON: After seven days at sea their boat started sinking. They headed for what appeared to be a fishing net. They clambered onto one of these, it's a tuna cage miles away from land, and there they were, exhausted, unable to swim, stranded.

24TH May 2007

KENYON: The cage was being towed by a commercial tuna trawler, but the crew wouldn't let them on board, so they were marooned 80 miles from land.

JUSTICE AMIN Some of my friend told me that he's going to jump into the water to kill himself. I said no, don't kill yourself, wait to see what is going to happen because I know God can save us.

KENYON With some barely conscious they were plucked from the seas by the Italian navy and ended up in Naples. As a humanitarian gesture the Italians gave them permission to stay for a year.

I'm sure you remember this. Where were you?

JUSTICE: Yeah, that's me. You can see me wearing red trousers. At that time we are in danger between dead and live.

ATIKU: Shouting: "Help, help, help!"

KENYON So that's why you put your hand up, you were shouting help.

ATIKU: Yes, yes.

KENYON You two were next to each other, like you are now.

VITO: Yes, yes.

KENYON Some were fleeing persecution but most of the 27 on the tuna cage are economic migrants, travelling to Europe to earn money to send back home to Africa.

You can't speak Italian, you haven't got any money, you haven't got anywhere to live, so what future is there for you here do you think?

ATIKU: Here in Italy I see a lot of language problem. We speak English, they don't speak English.

ATIKU: You can see that I'm not good enough in English so I would like to be in Britain to polish my English.

JUSTICE: I don't know anywhere in Europe, and also a beggar... a beggar don't have choice. So if a help can come from anywhere, I'm ready.

KENYON We left them in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius and arranged to meet again in the Autumn. Over the summer at least 20,000 migrants from across Africa use this route into Europe, all setting sail from the same secretive North African country ? Libya. Until recently a sponsor of international terrorism, isolated, unpredictable, friendless in the West. Now, 38 years into Colonel Gaddafi's rule it's coming in from the cold. Gaddafi tried to style Libya as the hub of a United States of Africa and opened its borders to the rest of the continent. So many migrants arrived they now represent about a quarter of the population. The borders are controlled now but they keep coming. So Libya is excepting foreign help from the international organisation for migration.

LAURENCE HART: Libya is in fact in the centre of two migration routes.

KENYON And then congregating obviously around where we are now in Tripoli.

HART: Exactly. I mean all this area is really in a point where migrants would set off.

KENYON They line the streets of Tripoli waiting for work. Some will stay taking advantage of higher wages, sending money home. Others have a longer term and more dangerous plan. They'll use the money to pay people smugglers to get them to Europe.

The normal figures for the amount of immigrants in Libya are something between one and a half to two million. What proportion of those do you think would be intent on getting to Europe in the long-run?

LAURENCE HART, International Organisation for Migration Difficult to say but I would say around 50%.

KENYON: So would it be accurate to say you've got about a million people in Libya who are looking at getting to Europe at some time in the future?

HART: It's difficult to say but of course yeah, I would say around a million... 750,000 ? one million, yes.

KENYON: The men from the Tuna cage were among them, using Libya as a transit country. ATIKU and Justice Amin lived in an area popular with migrants, frequented by people smugglers. So Justice Amin and Atiku lived and worked in this area here to try and raise the money for the crossing to Europe. Justice was chopping the heads off goat carcasses just to try and scavenge a tiny little bit of meat to sell to passers-by. Atiku was lugging big bags of sand around here. Both of them just scraping a living so they could pay the people smugglers. They slept on floors, Justice behind the meat market where he worked alongside other illegal immigrants. Most here have merely pressed the ?pause' button on their illegal journey to Europe. Justice had told us to look up an old friend of his, Razak from Ghana. He came here six years ago planning to travel to Europe.

Do you know people who've made the journey across the Mediterranean?

RAZAK: Many people, over hundreds.

KENYON: Hundreds!?

RAZAK: Yeah.

KENYON: Over the years you've been here.

RAZAK: Yeah.

KENYON: Whereabouts are they in Europe now, which countries are they in?

RAZAK: Some of them are in Spain, Germany, in France, even you United Kingdom.

KENYON: Razad likes to keep in touch with them, so we called Justice Amin for him.

Justice, how are you?


KENYON: Good I've got a friend here for you

RAZAK: Hello Amin. How do you find it?

JUSTICE: It's not easy, it's not easy. My advice to you, all my brothers in Libya, is to take good care of yourself over there, you understand? This journey is very, very difficult, it's very, very dangerous ?cause you can die through this journey. Do you understand?

RAZAK: Okay. Bye.

KENYON Razak is having a change of heart.

RAZAK: I saw many people die, so I decide I will stay in Libya and work until I go back home, because I'm the oldest son. I don't want my mum to be lose me.

KENYON: We headed off for a notorious people smuggling beach, the Zuwarah. Two hours drive, West of Tripoli. This is the road taken by tens of thousands of migrants each year, they're hidden in the back of pickup trucks and driven by people smugglers to a place where the desert meets the sea. It costs them up to two thousand dollars each. This is where the sea crossing begins. It goes on like this for 40 kilometres. Plenty of space for the people smugglers to bring the migrants down here by cover of night, launch them off in those small wooden boats and head them towards the Italian island of Lampedusa, or sometimes to Malta. The first steps into Europe.

They use old fishing boats, packing in 30 or so migrants a time. Some estimate about a quarter of those who attempt it die. Malta is on the frontline, 350 kilometres off the Libyan coast. The numbers arriving here are so high half the island's military budget is spent trying to deal with them. We're out with the armed forces of Malta on a spotter flight. Migrants can't be turned back, that could be a death sentence, so they're taken ashore.

Staff Sgt LORENTO SPITERI, Armed Forces of Malta: Once we do make visual contact with the vessel we'll ID the number of personnel on board, and we'll usually immediately commence a search for about 25 to 40 square miles. Practice has shown us that whenever we find one, there is usually at least another 3-5 in the immediate area.

KENYON: A group of migrants have just been taken on board. They've come from across Africa using the Libyan route which claims hundreds of lives every year.

IMMIGRANT: I know it's risky, but I have only one chance because from my beginning from I have the future from the first one I need to go through. That's why I came here.

KENYON: They were hoping to get to mainland Europe via the Italian island of Lampedusa, but they finished up in Malta. Malta doesn't have a mainland, it's a dead end.

When we get in to land here in Malta there'll be a reception committee of police, immigration officials and people from the detention centre, and it's not what any of these people planned at all. They all thought they were going to go to Italy.

You know you end up going in a detention centre here. That's what they'll do with you. It's very strict.

IMMIGRANT: Yes, I know, but I can't do anything.

KENYON: When you left Ghana, where did you plan to go to?

IMMIGRANT: Ah yeah, I planned to go in United Kingdom.

KENYON: None of them want Malta. Malta doesn't want them. It's already Europe's most densely populated country and migrant arrivals are equivalent to half the annual birth rate. So Malta is pushing to have them shared out across Europe including the UK. For now though, they're off to be processed.

TONIO BORG, Maltese Deputy Prime Minister: It's survive and in fact they're feeling trapped here, and right now we have about 3,500 and more now, 3,500 so definitely must sound like a very small number, but one immigrant who arrives is more, it's like 150 arriving in Cicely or 200 in Germany. Proportionately it is the largest problem in any European member state.

KENYON: This is Malta's deterrent ? detention centres where arrivals are taken straight from the boats. They serve up to 18 months here. After release they're still trapped. Many end up here, an African refugee camp in a quiet corner of Malta. The island doesn't really do repatriation, it hasn't the resources to check their countries of origin. So they stay bottle up in Malta.

This is what they've wanted, the Italian island of Lampedusa. Over the summer at least 18,000 arrived here. They know they'll be shipped straight to the Italian mainland. About a third are given refugee status, the rest declared economic migrants and ordered to leave, but most don't. They simply melt away into the rest of Europe. We're in Italy, looking for the men from the tuna cage. They were given a special license to stay for a year. One has made it to the city of Brescia at the foot of the Alps. Atiku from Ghana was aiming ultimately for the UK, but things aren't going to plan. We tracked him down to the train station. He showed us how he's been sleeping rough.

ATIKU: I doze here.

KENYON: Really?

ATIKU: Yes. See if I sit down...

KENYON: Go on, no I'm going to sit down with you, yeah.

ATIKU: I sit down like this. I'm just watching people like this.

KENYON: So you're trying to sleep here.

ATIKU: Yes. If I hear some noise or something... I just pretend like I'm not asleep. But if I didn't hear anything I'm just sleeping.

KENYON: Because you don't want to get caught by the authorities here, yeah, because you're not really allowed to do it.

It's a tragedy really. Last time I saw him he was buzzing with excitement and ambition. Now he's scavenging in litter bins and begging.

ATIKU: I can't go and steal. Begging is better for me if I get 5 euro like that. There is one place here they are selling pizza... kebab.

KENYON: Kebab, so you buy kebabs.


KENYON: He's paralysed, all his energy spent on worrying about the next place to sleep, the next meal.


KENYON: [Dining Atiku in style] Is this is the first meal that you've had properly whilst you've been here?

ATIKU: Since I ever came to here, yeah, I never come to place like this, eat the better food like this.

KENYON: Where do you want to go? Stay here?

ATIKU: No, if I get my accommodation, get work, then I can feel happy, yeah, I can feel free. Because I now that if I am working I can do a lot of things by myself I guess, so I can stay.

KENYON: But do you want to stay here or do you still want to go to the United Kingdom, to England?

ATIKU: If I get to go I will go.

KENYON: To England?

ATIKU: Yes, if I get to go, I will go.

KENYON: What about Vito from Nigeria? And John, also from Nigeria who told us he's trying to get political asylum after his father and brother were killed for their Christian beliefs. We found them living 30 kilometres from Venice. This is Fort Rosseau, a former military camp now housing drug addicts and migrants. It's paid for by the Italian Government. Nine of the men from the tuna cage ended up here. Their paperwork only allows them a year in Europe, but finding a job could mean permission to stay longer. There's normally a waiting list for places like this. Their ordeal on the tuna net swung it for them.

VITO: So this is my bed.


They're disillusioned. This place is rural, isolated, they need a busy city to find work.

In general, how do you think Europe is treating you? Is it what you expected?

JOHN: They're not treating us well at all. They're not treating us well. There is no work for black people, for illegal immigrant. All of them are wandering the street looking for... begging money.

VITO: I saw so many Italian men, boys, they are looking for job round here, is no job. If their citizen couldn't get job, how will it be possible for an immigrant to get job?

KENYON: People watching, they will say, why do you think you have a right to a job and to money and to a home when there are lots of poor and desperate people around Europe already, and they'll think maybe you're expecting a bit too much.

JOHN: Not that we're expecting money or a house or this. No. But as an illegal immigrant we doesn't need the money, we need a job.

KENYON: Expectations are often raised by images of a prosperous Europe, but one country is using TV to counter that.

SENEGALESE MOTHER: My only hope, after God, was my son. It's very hard. (footage of body washed up on rocks)

KENYON: Screened in Senegal, West Africa, sponsored by a favourite destination ? Spain. They used a famous Senegalese singer to get the message across.

YOUSSOU NDOUR: Thousands of families are destroyed. My name is Youssou Ndour. Don't put your life at risk for nothing. You are the future of Africa.

KENYON: But for those still determined to try, something new lies in wait, it's called Frontex, the European Border Patrol Agency, and it polices right up to the West Coast of Africa. Lined up on the beach below the fishing boats favoured by the people smugglers. From here migrants set sale for a place British holidaymakers know well ? Spain's Canary Islands. We're with the Italian Customs and Excise on a Frontex mission off Senegal. The agency borrows boats, planes and personnel from EU member states. Patrolling nearby are the Portuguese and Spanish all under the Frontex banner. The Senegalese are onboard too in case arrests need to be made. The idea ? to stop migrants before they even leave African waters.

How successful has your mission been with Frontex this time?

Captain DAVIDE D'APONTE, Guardia di Finanza: I think it has been successful because at least two weeks there are no more boats arriving in Canary Islands. So maybe in some way this is a success for Frontex.

Canary Islands

KENYON: This used to be the most popular sea crossing. Last year it was down by around 70%, but it's not all thanks to Frontex. Spain has its own deterrent, a strict repatriation policy. Thousands return to Senegal with its cooperation. The most dramatic single success for Frontex last year was just off the Senegalese Coast. They spotted this suspicious cargo ship.

FRONTEX: What is your flag captain?

CAPTAIN: My flag is North Korean.

Italian Coast Guard footage

KENYON: The Italians launched a boarding party and began an armed search, cabin to cabin. Nothing ? until they pulled back the covers of the holds. 350 migrants apparently heading for the UK!

FRONTEX: No children, no female?


FRONTEX: No female, no children?

KENYON: People smuggling on an industrial scale. These weren't Africans, they were from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, travelling half way round the world just to get to the departure point in West Africa. The Italian Captain had only the authority to turn them back. Now Panorama has discovered what happened next. Happy Day put into port and 44 of them were returned to India. The remaining 306 vanished, thought to be still in Africa. So if Frontex is making its presence felt off the coast of West Africa, why not on the fast growing route out of Libya? Frontex want to patrol right up to this Libyan coastline to stop the migrants from leaving. In a very similar way to how they've done it in Senegal with some positive results, but this is a big sticking point for the Libyans. Libya knows if its sea border is patrolled too rigorously fewer migrants can leave, and the numbers in Libya carrying on rising. Europe's solution only exacerbates Libya's crisis. It's former Prime Minister and now Secretary for Europe, denies that Libya turns a blind eye to those leaving from the coast.

Do you accept that more migrants would be picked up if you were fully cooperative with Frontex?

ABDULATI I. ALOBIDI, Libyan Secretary for European Affairs: Yes, I think we should work together to help them.

KENYON: Well the Europeans would say they're offering you assistance, they want to come and patrol right up to your sea border. Is that acceptable to you?

No, I'm a sovereign country and I can handle that. We have ships, we have boats, we have everything. We can handle our territorial waters.

KENYON: But of the 30,000 or more who made it to Europe from Africa last year, about two thirds came from Libya. Negotiating for Europe is EU Commissioner Franco Frattini.

FRANCO FRATTINI European Commission Vice President They don't recognise the right of Europe to patrol inside territorial waters because they simply refuse allowing our boats, helicopter, even to over fly territorial waters.

KENYON: Why is that do you think?

FRATTINI: Why? Because they want to get a comprehensive agreement.

Libyan Government footage

KENYON: For Libya any deal must include this, the Sahara Desert, sweeping thousands of kilometres along its border with the rest of Africa. This is where Libya believes the clandestine route into Europe can be stopped.

ALOBIDI: The problem is not in the sea, the problem is in the border. Libya has 4,500 kilometre border, five countries. It starts from there.

KENYON: They move up through Africa towards the desert borders with Libya which they must cross to get access to the coast. This is footage from Libya's own desert patrols never before seen in the West. It shows people smugglers transporting migrants across a sea of sand. The first leg of the journey to Europe and already a hidden death toll. It's both here and the coast that Libya wants Europe's help. It's listed what it needs.

ALOBIDI: Helicopter, this night-seeing equipment, radars to detect.. you know, the movement of the speed boats.

KENYON: And this is what you want from Europe.

ALOBIDI: This is what we want.

KENYON: And are they giving it to you?

ALOBIDI: Nothing at all.

KENYON: Europe's still negotiating but two weeks ago Libya signed an historic deal with the Italians which means the two countries will jointly patrol Libya's territorial waters. And what about European help in the desert?

And will you assist on the desert?

FRATTINI: Ah yes, our package will include a proposal to assist Libya in the desert.

KENYON: When will it happen:

FRATTINI: I would say we should start our implementation by spring.

KENYON: So by spring we're talking about having European hardware, night vision, radar and all that kind of thing on Libya's desert border.

FRATTINI: That's our ambition. That's our ambition is one of the preconditions to get Libya involved.

KENYON: Back in Italy we went in search of Justice Amin, at 18 the youngest man marooned on the tuna cage. He's travelled further North than any of them, to Brenno, a small town in the Italian Alps. It's here on a remote hillside that Justice has found a charity run hostel for migrants. Justice has two Italian lessons a week. Without the language he knows it'll be tough to find work. Without work his year long license to stay in Europe is unlikely to be extended.

JUSTICE AMIN: This is my bedroom.

KENYON: How many people in here?

JUSTICE: Four people here.

KENYON: Yeah? It's good, it's nice, it's clean and it's fresh.

JUSTICE: Here is my bed.

KENYON: Ah ha.

JUSTICE: My Koran.

KENYON: The Koran, yeah.

JUSTICE: It's from Libya.

KENYON: Oh it's beautiful.

JUSTICE: But if you turn the covers - salt

KENYON: No, why? This was in the sea?

JUSTICE: Yeah, the sea.

KENYON: From the tuna net? That's good. You've gotta keep that, yeah?

Justice seems to be the most focused. He left Africa after his parents were killed in a car crash and he's here to raise money for his younger brother and sister alone in Ghana.

You're living in a beautiful, idyllic surroundings, you know, this is like a holiday resort, it's great here. Are you happy?

JUSTICE AMIN I'm not happy because I'm not here to rest or spend the holidays or something like that. I'm here to find work to do so that I can help my family in Africa. That's why I'm here in Europe. So I'm not happy I'm here. I mean like this area or this place I was living I'm not happy.

KENYON: At the moment Justice is allowed to work, but radical changes are at foot. The EU is rolling out a new work permit system for migrants which could allow a million a year to come to Europe over the next 20 years. Initially the plan is to accept only highly skilled labour on a two year rotation so that the skills migrants learn here will be returned to their home countries, but it goes hand in hand with zero tolerance of illegal arrivals.

Is there any room for people like this in your new vision of Europe?

FRANCO FRATTINI, European Commission Vice President, If they are illegal there are no place in Europe, absolutely .

KENYON: Europe's policy at the moment is to crack down hard on the illegal routes. With the historic deal between Libya and Italy, this years' crossings could be cut dramatically, but those on the ground tell us you can't police away the desire to find a better life.

LAURENCE HART, International Organisation for Migration: Migration is like water, it will find a barrier but it will eventually find new ways of flowing somewhere else, as is already happening.

KENYON: For Justice time is running out, but even if he's told to return to Africa, he says there is nothing for him there. He could be tempted to join the millions of others in Europe's illegal workforce.

So where is it that you want to go ultimately in Europe?

JUSTICE: England is my target now, yeah, I will be very happy if I'm living in England and I wish I will be in England in future.

KENYON: Do you think England would welcome you?

JUSTICE: In-shalla. (God willing) I wish that, I hope that.

JEREMY VINE: Justice Amin, still intent on making it to England, and in the spring the whole process will begin again. Thousands who've survived the desert preparing for the final leg of their journey. Many will never make it. What next for the men from the tuna cage? Well you can follow their progress on our website.

Next week undercover in Britain's security industry. Who checks up on the men behind the CCTV cameras and security guards who are supposed to be protecting us?

Destination UK
11 Jan 08 |  Panorama
Destination Europe
10 Sep 07 |  Panorama
What you've said
15 Jan 08 |  Panorama

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific