The innocent man being confused for Europe’s most wanted smuggler

A man believed to be one of the world’s most wanted people smugglers, whom British police claimed to have helped to arrest and extradite to Italy, seems to have said this week that he remains at large and that an innocent man was seized and extradited in his place.
In private messages sent from his Facebook account and later seen by the Guardian, Medhanie Yehdego Mered said that another Eritrean man facing trial on Tuesday in Sicily, accused of being Mered, is in fact the victim of mistaken identity.
The messages constitute the strongest suggestion yet that the man on trial is not Mered, 35, but Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, a 29-year-old former dairy worker.
The news further undermines the claims of Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), Italian prosecutors, the British Foreign Office and the Sudanese police – all of whom played a role in the extradition in June.
But despite the clear-cut evidence that they made a mistake, Italian and British authorities continue to insist that they have the right man. “This is a complex multipartner operation,” said a spokesperson for the National Crime Agency. “The NCA is confident in its intelligence-gathering process.” Berhe—still identified by Italian prosecutors as Mered—is currently on trial in a courtroom in Palermo, Sicily. He stands accused of international human smuggling and running a transnational criminal organization. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Berhe’s arrest—and the refusal of authorities to admit that they got the wrong man—underscores the fundamental problem with Europe’s crackdown on undocumented migration. Immigration is being treated as a crime to be prevented, rather than a humanitarian crisis to be resolved. But the emphasis on law enforcement only serves to deepen the inequities and repression that are spurring millions to flee their homelands and seek asylum in Europe. Instead of providing a safe haven to people fleeing brutal dictatorships, European governments have partnered with some of those very same dictatorships—exacerbating the root causes of the mass migration from Africa to Europe and forcing desperate people into the hands of smugglers.

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