(CNN) – There’s been a recent spike in migrant attempts to reach Europe now that the seas are calmer and it’s starting to get warmer but there is something new and ominous going on.
Libyan officials tell CNN ISIS militants are infiltrating the migrant groups so they can establish sleeper cells in Europe.
This is the moment when desperate dreams come to an end.
We are with the Libyan immigration police, inside a warehouse of migrant hopefuls they’ve just raided, right 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’s savings buys is where fantasies of a future in Europe fall apart.
Eugene fled ISIS loyal Boko Haram in Nigeria, whose bombs killed his father and brother, and he survived the desert trek until here.
Eugene, a Nigerian Refugee said, “Today Bomb blast, tomorrow bomb blast. We are not safe, after the death of my father and my brother, let me go out, let me travel out. Every time I talk about them I feel sad.”
We leave quickly as this is the smuggler’s neighborhood.
But there is a new threat here – smugglers and police telling us that ISIS have hidden fighters among other groups of migrants, bound for Europe.
This trade in human souls is awful enough until you think that perhaps ISIS are using this passage of human life into Europe to try and infiltrate the continent with sleeper cells.
Police tell us off camera they have caught different other migrants with ISIS links and a top Libyan intelligence official warns us the threat is real.
Ismail al-Shukri, Misrata Police Commander said, “ISIS can be among the 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.”
It is a huge and unpatrollable coastline, where smugglers rule. We talk to one, disguised for his safety, who says in the past two months, ferrying ISIS has become part of the trade.
A Smuggler mentioned, “About 2 weeks ago, a boat left the ISIS stronghold Sirte. Among them there were about 40 ISIS. They were heading to Europe but bad weather turned them back. Ten days later they tried again. I don’t 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 for 25 people, and was willing to pay about $40,000. I didn’t take the deal.”
Do you or the other smugglers feel comfortable moving people who you know could be ISIS to Europe?
Smuggler: “Smugglers are only interested in smuggling. ISIS, anyone. They don’t care. Melon or watermelon…. Money only matters.”
The Libyan state is torn apart by infighting. Its coast guard struggling to even find boats.
Fighting the migrant trade across this, the whole coastline of the capital Tripoli, are just 6 boats like this, some of which not in particularly good service. You simply can’t imagine how under-resourced things are here so close to Europe.
These are the desperate scenes as they tried to rescue some African migrants whose dinghy collapsed late last year. Smugglers now prefer these dinghies, vulnerable to the slightest weather change.
A trade born of human misery, some fleeing ISIS themselves, only to find ISIS now seek to hijack their deadly journey, to spread more suffering.