'Refugee Boats' Similar to Those That Carried Asylum Seekers are Available on Alibaba

By Prei Dy, | April 25, 2017

Chinese online platform Alibaba is selling inflatable 'refugee boats.' (Pixabay)

Chinese online platform Alibaba is selling inflatable 'refugee boats.' (Pixabay)

Despite the European Union's plan to disrupt the business model of human traffickers in Libya including eliminating boats that will carry asylum seekers, smugglers are resorting to rubber dinghies that are readily available on Alibaba, the world's biggest online trading platform, for at least $300.

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Marketed as "refugee boats," the China-made dinghies are transshipped to Libya via Malta and Turkey. Smugglers reportedly pay for these boats through bank transfer or credit cards.

These transactions were confirmed in a leaked report published by Wikileaks in February 2016 which revealed that authorities from Malta Customs nabbed a container carrying a cargo of 20 packaged rubber boats similar to those that have been used to carry people from Libya to Europe.

About two-thirds of all trips from Libya are reportedly made on rubber dinghies as smugglers have a difficult time securing larger and sturdier wooden vessels.

According to MaltaToday, the main source of these rubber dinghies is China. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 5,000 pieces were sold, with a value reaching up to $1.42 million. This year, there have been more than 36,700 arrivals via the central Mediterranean route, up 44 percent from the same period in 2015. Rubber dinghies also account for between 15 percent to 20 percent of European maritime sector imports from China.

Based on the ad on Alibaba's website, a dinghy is promoted as an "inflatable rescue refugee boat" that is retailed between $300 and $500. The boats vary in lengths, ranging from 8 to 11 meters, and width of between 2.4 and 3.6 meters and can accommodate up to 60 passengers.

"The boat has good capacity of anti-sinking. When the boat is in max loaded condition (even the boat is filled fully with water), the boat still can be float on the water," the ad on Alibaba said.

The "refugee boats" also come with a pair of oars, a plywood seat, and a foot pump. Optional equipment available includes sun covers, trailers, foldable anchors, and life jackets.

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