CNN Transcript, Aired May 26, 2016
BLITZER: There are ominous new developments in the migrant crisis unfolding in Europe. Were now learning that ISIS fighters are hiding among the migrants masses, many of them being smuggled through Libya. Senior correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has this exclusive report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the moment when desperate dreams come to an end. Were with the Libyan immigration police inside a warehouse of migrant hopefuls they just raided on the Tripoli beachfront. As Turkey and Greece close their shores, the Libyan route to Europe has exploded again. Here, among the squalor that a lifetime savings buys, is where fantasies of a future in Europe fall apart.
(on camera): Where are you from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nigeria.
WALSH (voice-over): This man fled ISIS-loyal Boko Haram, whose bombs killed his father and brother. And he survived the desert trek until here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After today, bomb blast, tomorrow bomb blast. Were not safe. After the death of my father and my brother, I said let me go. And let me travel out. And every time I talk about them, I feel sad. I feel sad.
WALSH: We leave quickly, as this is a smugglers neighborhood. But theres a new threat. Smugglers and police telling us that ISIS have hidden fighters among other groups of migrants bound for Europe.
(on camera): This trade in human souls is awful enough until you think that perhaps ISIS are using this passage of human life into Europe, trying to infiltrate the continent with sleeper cells.
(voice-over): Police tell us off camera they have caught different other migrants with ISIS links. And a top Libyan official warns us the threat is real.
UNIDENTIFIED TOP LIBYAN OFFICIAL (through translation): ISIS can be among illegal immigrants on the boats. They travel with their families, without weapons, as normal illegal immigrants. They will wear American dress and have English-language papers so they cause no suspicion.
WALSH: Its a huge and un-patrolable coastline where smugglers rule. We talked to one, disguised for his safety, who says, in the past two months, ferrying ISIS has become part of the trade.
UNIDENTIFIED SMUGGLER (through translation): About two weeks ago, a boat left the ISIS stronghold Sirte, among them were about 40 ISIS. They were heading to Europe but the bad weather turned them back. 10 days later, they tried again. I dont know if they got there. About a month ago, I got a call from a devout guy I knew was ISIS. He wanted a small boat that could carry 40 people and was willing to pay about $40,000. I didnt take the deal.
WALSH (on camera): Do you and other smugglers feel comfortable moving people who may be ISIS towards Europe?
UNIDENTIFIED SMUGGLER (through translation): Smugglers are only interested in smuggling, ISIS, anyone, they dont care. Melon or watermelon. Only money matters.
WALSH (voice-over): The Libyan state is torn apart by infighting. Its Coast Guard struggling to even find boats.
(on camera): Fighting the migrant trade along the whole coastline of the Libyan capitol of Tripoli are just six boats like this, some which are not in particularly good service. You cant imagine how under resourced things are here so close to Europe.
(voice-over): These are the desperate scenes, as they tried to rescue some African migrants, whose dinghy collapsed late last year.
WALSH: Smugglers now prefer these dinghies, vulnerable to the slightest weather change.
WALSH: A trade borne of human misery. Some fleeing ISIS themselves, only to find ISIS now seek to hijack their deadly journey to spread more suffering.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Tripoli.