Europe

'High quality refugee boats' advertised on Alibaba

'Refugee' boats are on sale on Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba - in an apparent offer to people smugglers.

Refugee boats, inflatable pontoons and a rescue boat are up for sale on Alibaba.com.

It lists Zhejiang Anji Huayu Boat Development Co. Ltd as the company selling the boats, which are advertised at between US $800 and $1,100 per unit.

The company says the boats are constructed out of plywood, aluminium and PVC, and can carry 25 to 30 passengers.  

Life-jackets are described as "optional equipment".

The company is listed on Alibaba.com as a manufacturer and trading company with an annual revenue of US $5 million - $10 million, and located in Zhejiang in China.

It says its main markets are domestic at 26 per cent, Central America at 18 per cent and Eastern Asia at 12 per cent.

The European Union Times, an international online media organisation based in Europe, says this is not the first time adverts for refugee boats have been placed on Alibaba.com.

It said another advert that had already been removed from the site had described "inflatable rescue refugee boats" for sale as "not likely to sink".

"When the boat is in max loaded condition (even the boat is filled fully with water), the boat still can be float on the water," the Times quotes the advert as saying.

A spokesperson for Alibaba.com told SBS World News, "Alibaba.com does not tolerate product listings that suggest illicit or illegal behaviour.

"We have policies and procedures in place to deal with sellers who violate the law or our terms of use." 

The controversial sales have come after the EU imposed limits on the export of inflatable boats to Libya in July, in an attempt to stem supply to people smugglers. 

"We took a decision to introduce restrictions from today onwards on the export and supply to Libya of the inflatable boats and motors," EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said.

"These are devices are used by traffickers for smuggling activities. This decision we have taken on the European Union level will help make their businesses and lives even more complicated," the former Italian foreign minister told reporters.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing in May, European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said many inflatable boats used by people smugglers had been made in China.

"The rubber boats used by the smuggler networks in the Mediterranean are fabricated somewhere in China, they are exported to the countries in Asia and they are used by them," he said.

The intergovernmental International Organization for Migration said by the end of June 2017, more than 100,000 migrants from Middle East, Asia and Africa had reached Europe.

Italy and Spain have seen an increase in arrivals from June 2016, with the Italian Interior Ministry registering 83,752 new arrivals, a 19 per cent increase, and Spain seeing 6,464, up from 4,606 last year or a a 40 per cent increase.

SBS World News has contacted Zhejiang Anji Huayu Boat Development Co. Ltd for comment.

With AFP

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