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Video: On board a refugee smuggler's boat

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A France 2 TV crew joined Iraqi and Syrian refugees on a crossing over the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos organised by armed people smugglers.

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France 2 reporter Franck Genauzeau was allowed on board by the smugglers and given permission to film the trip, on which the dozens of passengers had paid 2,000 euros each (and 1,000 euros for the children).

Genauzeau boarded at an undisclosed point in southern Turkey. The boat and its crew continued along the coast to a secret pick-up point where the migrants were waiting.

The smugglers help the families, some with children as young as two months old, wade through the water to the boat. Others are forced off to help push the boat after it becomes grounded by the weight of passengers.

At least one smuggler brandishes a weapon to show these people just who is in charge.

Then the smuggler who has been piloting the boat assigns one of the migrants to take the wheel, and dives off. His job is done and he and his colleagues can count their cash. The migrants are no longer their problem.

As the journey proceeds into the night, the relief on the boat is palpable. Many pray, others congratulate each other. It is ten kilometres to the Greek island of Lesbos.

And then the engine, which has been spewing noxious fumes, stops.

The only lights are from Genauzeau’s camera and a few mobile phones.

The migrants' relief has turned to despair, and the passengers have to be shouted at to stop moving around the boat, which is rocking dangerously in the water.

Genauzeau uses his satellite phone to call for rescue, and later a small Greek fishing boat arrives, having been alerted by the coast guard.

With agonising slowness, the Greek vessel tows the overloaded and rickety migrant ship towards Lesbos.

Migrant Ibra tells Genauzeau: “You understand why we are going here? Our government lets us die, but your government takes care of you.”

 

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