Some of Europe’s most wanted men are hiding in the mountains of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. They are the smuggling groups that aid thousands of people making dangerous and illegal travels to Britain, France and other parts of Europe. We drove for hours to reach the home of one of these men.
The smuggler, who is covered in a headscarf and wearing dark glasses to disguise his identity, lights up a cigarette. He insists that we check the framing of the shot to ensure nothing gives away his location. The smuggler is seated next to an ashtray that is placed on the table.
After days of negotiations, this meeting was concluded. We must agree to not reveal his identity. If we do, and he is caught by the police, he promises that he will bring some of our team with him. It is difficult to discern whether he is serious or not.
He is very wary. He is so wary that he will not even go outside with us in case he’s seen by neighbors and reported to undercover police.
The TV screen shows CCTV images of the property. This might make it a lucrative business. He can make up to $100,000 per year. However, the price is paranoia. He is considered a pariah by many even within his own community.
Interviews are open to all, so I ask him directly if he’s a murderer.
The expected response is “No”. I don’t force anyone to go on boats or yachts. They pay for it, and they do a lot begging.
“Why would anyone go?” It’s water, waves and drowning. You wouldn’t go. I won’t force you to go. You would not want me to kill you. No. You decide.
I challenge him to determine who will win the “war” between European governments and smugglers. He not only boasts about his work, but also reveals that there is a secret route in operation this summer, which is unknown to the security agencies.
“No one can stop smuggling. I will open another route if you close this one. This is what smuggling looks like.
“Smugglers will win because there is no power anywhere in Britain or elsewhere that can eradicate smugglers. There will always be another network.
There are many routes. I can’t tell you which one. Because of the problems caused by water, the path through Turkey is now difficult. There are other paths that I can’t tell you about. They are much easier.
“In this week, only 100 people chose a different route. I won’t tell you about that one.”
I also ask him about Britain’s new policy of deporting illegal migrants to Rwanda. I was really expecting him to not know much about the conflict between politics and morality back home.
I was mistaken. He was not only aware, but he also told us that the migrants he works with were aware of the legal obstacles that had delayed the first deportation flight.
It’s a remarkable endorsement of a policy which has caused so much division in the UK.