Interpol Arrests 'World's Most Wanted' Human Smuggler in Sudan

    Interpol Arrests 'World's Most Wanted' Human Smuggler in Sudan
    Last updated Jan 06, 2023
    Image credit: AP [via Al Jazeera]


    • Interpol announced on Thursday that an Eritrean national characterized as the "most wanted human trafficker," Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, was arrested in Sudan on Jan. 1 in an operation led by the United Arab Emirates.[1]
    • On Interpol's radar since 2019, Habtemariam was the subject of two "Red Notices" for crimes related to migrant smuggling and human trafficking. He is accused of leading a major criminal organization behind the kidnapping, extortion, and murder of East African migrants.[2]
    • This arrest — allegedly a major blow to an important smuggling route into Europe — came after police in the UAE focused on money laundering activities and found Habtemariam in Sudan, with Interpol stressing the importance of international cooperation.[3]
    • Habtemariam had been on the run since February 2021, when he escaped from a courthouse in Ethiopia after a year in custody. Later, he was convicted in absentia to life in prison for starving and torturing migrants to death.[4]
    • Habtemariam is also accused of running a migrant camp housing thousands of people in Libya, which has become the dominant transit point to Europe after the Noth African country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed revolt in 2011.[5]
    • He will now face trial in the UAE for money laundering and, after the case is closed, authorities will review the possibility of his extradition. Interpol expects more arrests as part of continuing investigations into human traffickers.[6]


    Pro-establishment narrative

    Arresting Habtemariam will surely disrupt a major people smuggling route into Europe and protect thousands of vulnerable people, as he was the mastermind behind his criminal organization's migrant transferring operations. In addition, it shows that the international community can hold dangerous people smugglers accountable for their crimes through collaboration.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Though people smuggling gangs indeed put the lives of thousands of vulnerable migrants at risk and must be held accountable, the main focus of the international community ought to be on the core underlying issues that drive these patterns. Meanwhile, the EU should make it easier for these migrants to enter its territory and legally claim asylum.

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