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Migrants New To Spain Say Human Traffickers Are The Scariest Part


And we're going to hear next from two people who crossed the Mediterranean. They started in the Middle East and crossed one border after another. They did it with the help of traffickers. They finally reached the southern coast of Spain, and that's where they shared their stories with reporter Lauren Frayer.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: At a Spanish class for refugees, Mohamed Rachid Sarhan and Bahaa Badran sit side by side, studying their Spanish verbs. The two men are both Arabs in their 20s and early 30s from neighboring areas, Syria and the Palestinian territories. But it wasn't until they met in Spain that they became fast friends. Both are seeking refugee status here and both made harrowing journeys across several countries and then crossed the Mediterranean Sea by boat.

BAHAA BADRAN: It's a difficult way. I'm coming from Jordan to Egypt, from Egypt to Libya, Libya to Algeria, Algeria to Morocco, then to Espana.

FRAYER: Espana, Spain, says Badran, the Palestinian. He's fleeing a feud in his hometown in the West Bank. His new friend, Sarhan, is fleeing war in his native Syria.

MOHAMED RACHID SARHAN: We don't have now home. Bomb every day, everywhere. Now we don't have anything. No water. There's no food. There's no gas in the car. Anything is not working. Maybe now they will kill me.

FRAYER: These men are staying at a refugee center in Malaga on Spain's south coast. They watch footage of the weekend drownings in the Mediterranean and shake their heads, recalling their own passage. Badran says the scariest part was dealing with the professional traffickers.

BADRAN: It's so dangerous. Some man who put us in that boat, and he take everything from us, like money, like clothes, like everything.

FRAYER: Badran says his smuggler abandoned his passengers once they landed on a Spanish beach.

How much did you pay?

BADRAN: He take nearly 5,000 euro. So much.

FRAYER: Traffickers helped Badran and Sarhan both cross land borders without a passport and then arranged for the boats. Sarhan says his trafficker threatened his passengers, saying if you don't pay up...

SARHAN: He can tell you, OK, get out now. If you cannot give him money, you cannot come in Europe. People can kill you.

FRAYER: One of the places he says his trafficker threatened to leave him was Libya, where the self-declared Islamic State recently killed many migrants.

(Speaking Spanish).

FRANCISCO CANSINO: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: Francisco Cansino is the caseworker for these two men. He's compiling profiles of these traffickers in hopes of identifying and helping to prosecute some of them.

CANSINO: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "Migrants tell us about the money they've paid, but sometimes also the debts they still have to these traffickers," he says. "One cruel tactic we've seen particularly with women is to send her child across the sea first as a guarantee that the parent will pay up and come next. The same mafia has branches on both sides of the sea," he says. Outside their Spanish class at the refugee center, Badran and Sarhan chat about what they've left behind and what the future might hold.

BADRAN: In Palestine, no safe, no life, no money. There is so much problems.

FRAYER: What does Europe represent for you?

BADRAN: At the least safe. That's first.

FRAYER: Safety.

BADRAN: Yes, safety. And really I need to feel that.

FRAYER: Badran says he would like to say something to European leaders in Brussels.

BADRAN: I need to ask them to make the ways easy for the people who really have necessity to leave their country to Europe or to America, to anywhere, any safe country and tell them.

FRAYER: Do you believe that help will come to you?

BADRAN: I hope. I hope. Inshallah, inshallah.

FRAYER: God willing, he says. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Malaga, Spain. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.