Wednesday October 19, 2016

How ISIS has turned refugee trafficking into multi-billion dollar business

Journalist Loretta Napoleoni's latest book, Merchants of Men looks at why jihadi groups including ISIS and al-Qaeda view the migrant crisis as a major money-making opportunity.

Journalist Loretta Napoleoni's latest book, Merchants of Men looks at why jihadi groups including ISIS and al-Qaeda view the migrant crisis as a major money-making opportunity. (Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters)

Listen 26:34

Read story transcript

Packed like sardines onto rickety boats, refugees are risking their lives every day crossing the Mediterranean in the hopes of reaching Europe.  They are fleeing places like Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan.  Along the way, they most often fall prey to human traffickers run by groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Loretta Napoleoni

Merchants of Men author, Loretta Napoleoni. (Matthew-Lai-@kaizenmatt)

Loretta Napoleoni's new book Merchants of Men: How Jihadists and ISIS turned kidnapping and refugee trafficking into a multibillion-dollar business, follows the money.  It traces how jihadi groups are making-record making profits off the current refugee crisis.  

"In Libya, ISIS would control the number of people on the boat. So you would pay more money to leave from Sirte, the region controlled by ISIS, but you were assured the crossing would be ok and you would have less chances of drowning."

Napoleoni says the other big money-maker is kidnapping.

"The kidnapping phenomenon started in 2003 with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. This is how they funded themselves."  

Osama bin Laden Ayman al-Zawahiri Al Qaeda

For jihadi groups like al-Qaeda, kidnapping, human trafficking and the selling of women for sex, is a business that helps fund terrorist activities around the world, according to journalist Loretta Napoleoni. (Hamid Mir/Editor/Ausaf Newspaper for Daily Dawn/Reuters)

And she says ISIS has taken it a step further.

"ISIS could afford to buy them [hostages] and to keep them. ISIS bought them for political reasons  Some of those hostages were worth more dead than alive."

From the abductions of journalists and average citizens to running human trafficking routes to Europe, Napoleoni tracks how jihadi groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda are making record-breaking profits off of human misery.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien.