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There is no end in sight for the war in Syria, and North African countries - especially Libya - remain unstable, resulting in a roaring trade for people smugglers. To use the words of an intelligence analyst, the illegal immigration business is booming. And the business is in the hands of the Islamists.

Those who "work" in this business essentially control and manage the routes of all illegal trafficking. These routes are interchangeable; often, they overlap. For example, human beings are moved on routes that are usually used for trasferring weapons. It has happened in the past and it continues to happen, in part because of the proliferation of jihadist camps in caos-stricken Libya. There are some in the Sebha-Murzuq-Awbari triangle, but there are also others south of Benghazi and just outside Derna.

The situation is obviously a cause of concern for the intelligence community. It is extremely dangerous to mix weapons and Islamists with thousands of desperate people who have nothing to lose, exposed to extortion and temptation.

Financial assistance for the areas where the migrant smugglers come from has already been documented. The possible next step - recruiting men who are ready for anything, and infiltrating them into Europe - has the security forces of the entire continent lying awake at night, as they try to stay on top of the movements of potential suspects.

The Egyptian routes now represent the main alternative to the Libyan one after the abandonment of the Greek/Turkish route, and they are being monitored. "Mother-boats" have been seen setting out from Egypt and dumping migrants on smaller boats in front of the Greek coast. From there, the voyage of the migrants continues towards the Italian region of Puglia, following the route that was already used by smugglers and drug traffickers. Another route originates in Tunisia and Algeria, but it, like the Moroccan itinerary, often sends people and goods towards the Spanish coast.

May 8, 2014