TIME Soccer

U.S. Accuses Soccer Officials of Decades of ‘Rampant, Systemic and Deep-Rooted’ Corruption

"Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation”

In a cascading explosion of events that sent the soccer world into shock on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that officials of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) — the world’s most powerful and lucrative sporting body — had engaged in decades of criminal actions in which they pocketed millions of dollars in bribes over more than two decades. Unveiling charges of money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud against 14 people, including nine FIFA officials, Lynch said the charges showed “corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” and that “at least two generations of soccer officials … have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of bribes and kickbacks.”

“They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament,” Lynch said at a press conference on Wednesday.

In a morning that left FIFA officials reeling, Swiss police stormed the Zurich hotel rooms of seven executive committee members before dawn on Wednesday, hauling them into custody in preparation for extradition to New York City, whose Eastern District Court unveiled indictments against 14 people, including two FIFA vice presidents, involving bribe taking and fraud worth millions and dating back to 1991.

That was not the end of the morning’s stunning events. Within hours, Switzerland’s Attorney General’s Office announced it had raided FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Wednesday and seized hordes of documents and computer hard drives, in connection with “criminal mismanagement and money laundering.” The Swiss charges relate to FIFA’s decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The prospect of Qatar hosting the Cup was greeted with incredulity as it has never qualified for the tournament, it has a population of just over 2 million and its summers are too hot for outdoor sports although it one of the richest countries in the world. Qatar beat the U.S. by a single vote.

FIFA’s management tried to downplay the severity of the charges on Wednesday and attempted to portray the organization as having been the victim of errant figures within its executive ranks — casting the indictments as the result of a few rotten eggs within an otherwise clean organization. “We are very happy about what is happening right now,” FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told a packed press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Zurich, where football officials from across the world are gathered this week for FIFA’s congress, and to vote on Friday for a new (or re-elected) president. “It is once again FIFA suffering under these circumstances. It is certainly a difficult moment for us.”

De Gregorio did not appear to have read the Department of Justice press release published Wednesday in which acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie of the Eastern District of New York said that Wednesday’s announcement was a message that enough was enough. “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start — a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”

FIFA’s hastily arranged press conference appeared designed to quarantine the organization and its president Sepp Blatter from the turmoil raging around them, and to allow this week’s meeting to go ahead as planned — as well as to try to prevent FIFA members from reopening the votes on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. “Russia and Qatar will be played. This is what is fact today. I don’t go into speculation about what will happen tomorrow,” de Gregorio told reporters.

How FIFA can control the damage from Wednesday’s charges and arrests, and keep the organization on track, is still unclear. But de Gregorio reminded journalists several times that it was FIFA itself that had opened the corruption investigation in Switzerland last November, which led to Wednesday’s raid. He said not even Blatter had known about the impending arrests, despite the fact that he has run the organization with despotic control for 17 years, and is up for re-election for a fifth term in office.

Among those arrested in Zurich was one of Blatter’s closest allies, FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, who heads the regional football association for North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), and who many have regarded as Blatter’s likely successor. Despite that, de Gregorio insisted Blatter was untouched by Wednesday’s events. “The president is not involved,” he told reporters, and they bombarded him with questions about the FIFA president’s viability. “Of course he is the head of FIFA. But he is not involved, so how can you say he has to step down? He is the president, he is the president, and in two days he will stand for re-election.”

The raids in Switzerland were preceded by the unsealing of a 47-count indictment early Wednesday morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York City. It also emerged that four individual defendants and two corporate defendants had already pleaded guilty.

Two of the most senior officials were Webb and Jack Warner, the former president of CONCACAF, whose headquarters in Miami were also raided Wednesday.

The Department of Justice also revealed that two sons of Warner, Daryl and Daryan Warner, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and other charges in July 2013. The other men who pleaded guilty were Charles Blazer, the former CONCACAF general secretary and a former FIFA executive-committee member, and José Hawilla, the owner and founder of Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports-marketing conglomerate. Hawilla also agreed to forfeit over $151 million, $25 million of which has been paid.

Two companies, Traffic Sports USA and Traffic Sports International, also pleaded guilty to wire-fraud conspiracy.

TIME facebook

Why a French Court Could Disrupt Facebook’s Global Ambitions

Facebook is trying to defend its right to ban a man for posting an image of an erotic work of art but the implications could be much greater

In a case that could have far-reaching implications for U.S. tech companies, French lawyers were back in court on Thursday, arguing over whether Facebook could refuse a French teacher the right to post a famous French Romantic nude painting — raising again the crucial legal battle over how Internet users assert their rights against global companies whose headquarters are thousands of miles away.

The case has wound its way through the French courts for years. It began in 2011, when a French teacher (unnamed in the lawsuit) posted a photo on his Facebook page of the painting “l’Origine du Monde,” by the 19th-century artist Gustave Courbet, depicting a close-up view of a woman’s genitals. Facebook deactivated the teacher’s account, on the grounds that it violated the company’s policy forbidding users from posting naked or explicit material. The teacher sued the company for €20,000 (about $22,300) in damages, saying Facebook had failed to distinguish pornography from art; indeed, Courbet’s erotic painting is one of the most famous works in the Orsay Museum in Paris.

Last January, Facebook’s lawyer argued that its “Terms of Service” contract — that long block of text on which users click ‘agree’ when they set up accounts — clearly states that the company’s jurisdiction lies in California, and that France has no right to rule on its business decisions. But earlier this year the high court in Paris rejected the company’s argument, saying that the rule was “abusive,” since it violated French consumer-protection laws, by making it effectively impossible for French users to sue the company. Facebook has appealed that ruling. Thursday’s court was a largely procedural hearing, intended to set the timetable and parameters of the case.

The case might seem trivial of itself: It concerns only one person’s Facebook page, and a 150-year-old painting. But it could have impact beyond France, with the potential to challenge the business models of multibillion-dollar tech companies, which depend in good part on the ability to exercise wide control over users’ data and online activity.

With U.S. tech giants increasingly dominant in Europe, the legal wrangle, in the eyes of many, is a battle of wills over who ultimately will control the digital lives of the E.U.’s 500 million people — the world’s richest consumer market. The plaintiff’s lawyer Stéphane Cottineau called the ruling by Paris’s high court “a victory by David against Goliath.” He told TIME by phone this week that the notion that French Facebook users could not sue the company in their own country was “ridiculous.”

The French Facebook case comes as U.S. tech giants are already embroiled in long, expensive legal battles with different governments in Europe, and with the E.U. in Brussels. The list of cases is long, and growing: In 2013 the E.U. imposed a “right to be forgotten” law, allowing Europeans to demand that Google and other search engines delete information about themselves — a battle against which Google waged a fierce fight. Last year the French government forced Twitter to delete the anti-Semitic tweets of French users, which it said violated the country’s hate-speech laws. E.U. regulators charged Google last month with elbowing out its competitors on its shopping site, in a case that could result in hefty fines for the company. The regulators in Brussels are also considering laying charges against Android for noncompetitive practices for pushing Google apps on its smartphones, and they say they are investigating whether Apple, Amazon and Starbucks have engaged in tax avoidance, by stashing billions in profits in low-tax E.U. countries like the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

But in France, the current battle boils down to one essential question: Can a private company force its customers to abide by its rules, no matter what? That, say lawyers, is not clear, since Facebook’s terms of service might violate French laws, which state that customers are allowed to sue a company. “One of the rules says you cannot include a clause that prevents a person going to court easily,” says Laetitia Guillet, a French attorney with the U.S. law firm Keller and Heckman in Paris. Facebook argues that users freely create accounts, and click on ‘agree’ to its terms, including that its jurisdiction is in California. But, says Guillet, “Nobody reads the terms of service. Even though I am a lawyer, I have never read it.”
In fact, the issue of which governments global Internet companies obey is still deeply unclear. Companies fear that if its users, like the French teacher, win cases against them, it could require them to tailor-make their sites for each specific country’s laws — an expensive task even in the E.U., which has 28 member states. That makes the issue of jurisdiction key to many cases. “This question that is on everyone’s minds right now, not only for Facebook but also Google and Twitter, because all these entities have international scope and reach,” says Adam Holland, project coordinator for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “We don’t want to let local laws dictate global policy, because where will that end?”

TIME Syria

ISIS Must Be Stopped From Destroying Ancient City, U.N. Says

Part of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, Syria in 2014.
Joseph Eid—AFP/Getty Images Part of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, Syria, in 2014

ISIS's takeover of Palmyra means they control more than half of Syria

After months of fierce fighting, ISIS captured the town of Palmyra northeast of Syria’s capital Damascus on Thursday, leaving the group in control of more than half of the country’s territory — and raising fears among experts that its fighters will begin smashing spectacular ancient sites.

Set on the strategic road linking Damascus to Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, Palmyra contains ruins dating back 2,000 years from what was once one of the most prosperous and culturally rich cities of the Roman Empire. Until war erupted in 2011, thousands of tourists visited the site, which adjoins the modern-day town of Palmyra. In the middle of the ancient city is a colonnaded street, and nearby is a huge ancient amphitheater, and towering ancient temples with monumental arches and columns.

Those are all irreplaceable historic treasures, say cultural experts. “Any destruction of Palmyra is not just a war crime, it will mean an enormous loss for humanity,” Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural organization, said in a video appeal early Thursday, just hours before the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, seized control of the city. “We just have to make everything possible to prevent its destruction. We need total mobilization of the international community.”

ISIS’s capture of Palmyra comes after months in which its fighters have systematically destroyed ancient ruins and artifacts, including smashing statues in the museum of Mosul, which the group captured last June. ISIS claims the antiquities, which far predate the arrival of Islam, represent idol worship, which violates the group’s ideals. Both Iraq and Syria were key trading centers for the ancient empires and contain numerous important sites.

Quantities of ancient artifacts have also been lost to looting and smuggling, with Syrians selling them to criminal networks across the border for trade on international markets. UNESCO staff have helped Syrians to ferry artifacts out of the war zone, and have trained Interpol, border officials and even art auctioneers in how to detect looted items. “We’re doing a lot of effort on all movable objects to get them to safer places,” says Karim Hendili of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center in Paris. UNESCO declared the ancient city a world heritage site in 1980.

As ISIS fighters steadily closed in on the city in recent weeks, Syrians began a furious effort to smuggle out to safety whatever antiquities they could, in order to prevent them being destroyed, should Palmyra fall. The effort began two months ago and accelerated this month as ISIS’s victory looked increasingly likely, according to Cheikmous Ali, of the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology, a volunteer group that has coordinated clandestine rescues for ancient items in areas now controlled by ISIS. Ali told the BBC on Thursday that the group had managed to remove many antiquities from Palmyra. “Some objects are still there,” he said. “It is not 100% empty.”

But experts cannot say for sure how much of Palmyra’s ancient treasures might have been lost or destroyed in years of war. Indeed, they might well have to wait until ISIS posts video from the ground, before knowing the true extent of what has been lost, or is at risk. “As long as we cannot go on the ground to assess accurately it is difficult to say,” Hendili tells TIME. “What we know is that recently the fighting between the Syrian government and the extremists got closer and closer to the site. But the site is very big, with an oasis and a citadel. We will have to cross-check before we know the situation.”

TIME migrants

ISIS Makes a Fortune From Smuggling Migrants Says Report

Migrants on a packed wooden boat wait to be rescued off the coast of Malta on May 3, 2015.
Jason Florio—MOAS Migrants on a packed wooden boat wait to be rescued off the coast of Malta on May 3, 2015.

Migrants pay thousands of dollars to armed groups in Africa and the Middle East on their journey to Europe

The movement of migrants across the Middle East and Africa towards Europe has generated up to $323 million for the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other jihadist groups, a new report has revealed.

Many of the migrants embark from Libya on unseaworthy boats which have foundered with thousands drowning and thousands being rescued by European navies. At least 170,000 refugees made the sea journey last year, and that number looks likely to increase this year, according to the European Union’s border-surveillance organization Frontex.

European Union and African officials are scrambling to find ways to stop the migration. On Wednesday the Guardian revealed a 19-page E.U. strategy report to crack down on the smugglers, which included air strikes on boats and possibly the use of troops in Libya.

But while E.U. officials anguish over the plight of people crossing the Mediterranean to get to Europe, the migration has proved an invaluable business opportunity for groups like ISIS. So valuable that international crime experts believe ISIS might have launched some attacks specifically in order to drive people to flee, and then profit from their flight. “They [ISIS] were looking desperately for new funds,” says Christian Nelleman, director of the Norwegian Center for Global Analysis, or RHIPTO, who co-authored this week’s report with the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a consortium of organized-crime experts. “Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS needs a totally different scale of funds because they run an army and provide social services,” he says.

ISIS’s sources of funding appear to have changed markedly since 2014. For much of last year, ISIS brought in funds from oil smuggling — a key reason why its fighters seized oil facilities in Syria and Iraq —with oil trading earning up to $3 million a day, according to U.N. estimates. But those earnings have crashed, perhaps by half, since last August, when the U.S. and its allies began bombing ISIS oil facilities, according to a Western intelligence report from last January, which was shared with TIME this week. The report estimates that ISIS needs between $523.5 million and $815.3 million a year to run its operations, including to pay its fighters, run social services, and buy weapons and ammunition.

Aside from oil, ISIS has recently earned between $22 million and $55 million a year taxing antiquities smugglers, who traffic looted objects out of Syria and Iraq, and between $168 million and $228 million a month taxing small businesses and residents in ISIS-controlled areas, according to the January intelligence report, which said ISIS has “a robust budget for a group numbering in the 30 to 40,000 range.”

In fact, the most robust new business is migrant smuggling, with funds going not only to ISIS but also al-Qaeda-linked groups around the Sahara and militias in Libya, which seized the capital Tripoli last August. Smugglers typically charge each migrant between $800 and $1,000 to reach Libya, either from across the Sahara or from the Middle East, and then between $1,500 and $1,900 to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, according to this week’s report.

In an interview with TIME last month, one migrant described being forced to pay different armed groups along each step of his four-month journey, from his home in Senegal until he squeezed aboard a migrant boat off Libya’s coast in mid-April, bringing the total cost of his journey to about $2,150. That is typical of the smugglers’ operation across the Middle East and Africa, according to this week’s report. “The value of this trade dwarfs any existing trafficking and smuggling businesses in the region, and has particularly strengthened groups with a terrorist agenda, including the Islamic State (ISIS),” the report says. “This growing business now provides what is possibly now the largest and most easily accessible threat finance opportunity for both organized crime networks and armed groups to purchase arms, establish larger and more regular armies, and demand taxation.”

The report suggests ISIS has recently driven Syrians and Iraqis from their homes in a deliberate attempt to increase their control over smuggling routes, and to drive up the numbers of those trying to cross the Mediterranean. Syrians now comprise the largest number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, followed by refugees from the East African nation of Eritrea. The surge in Syrian refugees crossing the Mediterranean since last year appeared to follow ISIS attacks on refugee camps. “Why would they want to attack refugee camps near the Syria-Jordan border?” Nelleman says. “The purpose was to drive refugees out.” Many of those refugees made their way to Libya to take dangerous boats to Europe.

TIME Italy

One Migrant’s Harrowing Journey From Senegal to Italy

ITALY-IMMIGRATION-SHIPWRECK
Giovanni Isolino—AFP/Getty Images Shipwrecked migrants disembark from a rescue vessel as they arrive in the Italian port of Augusta in Sicily on April 16, 2015.

He traveled through the Sahara for more than 12 days before reaching chaotic Libya and the treacherous Mediterranean

Mahmoud’s journey across the Mediterranean to Europe in mid-April was a hellish two-day ordeal. The 28-year-old vomited uncontrollably as the tight-packed boat tossed on the choppy waters, he recalls, while several passengers died of dehydration and were buried at sea. He was weak and shaken by the time the vessel drifted ashore in Italy, and he remains haunted by the experience. “Even now I have a problem in my head,” he told TIME on Monday, recounting a traumatic four-month trip from his home in Senegal into Fortress Europe. “I cannot sleep,” he says, speaking by phone from an immigrant center in Rome, where he is now applying for refugee status. “Many people I met have died trying to cross to Europe.”

With at least 1,000 migrants dead in the Mediterranean this past week — the deadliest week at sea for migrants in memory — E.U. officials are scrambling to devise strategies to halt the armada of smugglers’ boats crossing from North Africa, and to prevent more mass drownings, which are turning the Mediterranean into a mass grave of migrants. Many are fleeing wars or poverty back home, facing severe risks that have spiraled in their deadliness. About 1,500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean since Jan. 1, compared with 96 in the first four months of last year, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.

Shocked at the toll, E.U. leaders are set to discuss a raft of emergency measures in Brussels on Thursday, including deploying more boats to help migrants — something many E.U. countries have been loath to do until now — and streamlining immigration and asylum requests from Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people are leaving for Europe.

But above all, E.U. officials say that for the mass deaths to stop, there is one place where peace is needed, and now: Libya.

With the great majority of boats leaving from Libya’s coast, European officials believe that country’s collapse into chaotic violence has allowed a rapacious mafia of human traffickers to flourish with impunity. E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters Monday that Europe wanted to work with Libyans to form a national unity government, so rival factions could together administer the country and help crack down on traffickers. “We invite all Libyans to have the same sense of urgency,” she said, “not only to save their country but the many human lives that are put at risk on their own territory.”

Judging from Mahmoud’s harrowing description of his journey through Libya, and from interviews with those who remain in Libya, however, stopping the smugglers will be a daunting task.

Despite the deaths on the Mediterranean, Libyan traffickers are still finding thousands of eager customers, mostly African, who are desperate for a way out and willing to pay smugglers a hefty $1,000 each to squeeze on to heavily overloaded boats.

Mahmoud, who requested his last name not be used for fear of complicating his request for asylum in Italy, estimates he paid a steep $2,130 to smugglers throughout the trip.

After leaving Senegal, Mahmoud crossed the blistering Sahara for more than 12 days, traveling through Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, as groups of migrants were passed from one smuggling group to the next, each demanding payment. With little to eat or drink, he recalled, several migrants died in the sand. When they finally staggered into Tripoli, they found a terrifying city racked by gunfire and militia battles. When Mahmoud ventured out to find work in order to pay for his onward journey, he says, police arrested him and jailed him for “one month and four days.”

Libya’s Catholic Bishop, Father Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, told TIME from Tripoli on Monday that he has begun begging Africans who visit his whitewashed Italianate church in the city not to risk death on the unforgiving sea. “I try to discourage them, I try to teach them courage,” he says. But his pleas have fallen on deaf ears. And meanwhile, hundreds more migrants keep arriving in Libya, in search for smugglers to take them to Europe.

By the time the African migrants arrive in Tripoli, they have already paid dearly for leaving home — so dearly, in fact, that stopping short of Europe seems almost unfathomable. Mahmoud never contemplated turning around, a decision that would have required retracing the perilous Sahara route, which he says had “many bandits and robbers.”

Martinelli said many migrants crowded into his church on Sunday, just hours after the news broke that hundreds of migrants appeared to have drowned in the worst single incident in the Mediterranean on record. “The church is full, full, full of Africans,” he said, speaking from Tripoli. “They all want to get to Italy, they all want a possibility to leave.”

Smugglers finally packed Mahmoud and others into a dinghy late one night in early April, but the vessel sprang a leak and the group turned back. Police shot at them as they clambered back ashore, according to his account, killing seven migrants. A few days later, smugglers tried again, packing hundreds into a boat at midnight and sending them across the Mediterranean.

Although his nightmarish journey is now over, Mahmoud says the experience has left him severely affected, and with lasting medical problems. Asked what he tells friends back in Senegal who are considering making the same trek to Europe, he says, “I tell them, ‘Never, never, never go.’”

Read next: More Migrants Saved From Drowning as E.U. Tries to Act

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TIME europe

More Migrants Saved From Drowning as E.U. Tries to Act

A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy, early, April 20, 2015.
Alessandra Tarantino—AP A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy, early, April 20, 2015.

After 1,000 migrants died in a week, European officials are slowly taking action

Hundreds of migrants were rescued from two separate boats on the Mediterranean on Monday as European Union officials rushed to find a way to reduce the numbers of migrants crossing the sea and save the ones who make the journey.

According to reports, one boat off the Libyan coast was carrying about 300 people, and another off the Greek island of Rhodes, from which about 80 migrants were rescued from the sea. That came just one day after about 700 migrants trying to get to Europe are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean’s Strait of Sicily near Libya—the single worst loss of life in years of a spiraling migrant crisis. The overloaded fishing boat tilted, and then sank, after hundreds of passengers rushed to one side of the vessel in order to hail a passing Portuguese merchant ship.

With more than 1,000 people drowned in the past week alone—the deadliest week in memory—foreign and interior ministers of the E.U.’s 28 countries met in Luxembourg to thrash out a strategy and to coordinate E.U. efforts. The plan includes increasing funding to the E.U.’s border-patrol program at sea and expanding its brief to rescuing people—something aid organizations have pushed for for months—and trying to push Libyan politicians to form a united government, to resolve the chaos there. “With this latest tragedy, we have no more excuses, the E.U. has no more excuses, the member states have no more excuses,” the E.U.’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters. “We need immediate action from the E.U.”

E.U. officials announced that the continent’s leaders would hold an emergency summit on Thursday.”We have to stem the flow from the Libyan side,” Malta’s Prime Minister George Vella told CNN on Monday. “The numbers are being augmented by those who are making mountains of money from these poor people.” With a similar message, British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking during an election campaign in Cheshire, England, called the scenes of overloaded migrant boats “horrific,” and said, “We should put the blame squarely on the appalling human traffickers.”

Yet the situation is more complex than that. Despite the veneer of unity in Luxembourg among E.U. officials, Europe is sharply divided over whether to mount search-and-rescue efforts in international waters. Several E.U. leaders fear such efforts would encourage thousands more migrants to try make it to Europe—the so-called pull factor—at a time when right-wing political parties have soared in national elections on a message of limited immigration to Europe.

Last November, the E.U. scrapped funding for an Italian maritime rescue program, Mare Nostrum, and replaced it with an E.U. program called Triton, whose $3.1 million monthly budget is one third its predecessor’s budget. Unlike the defunct Mare Nostrum, the E.U. program is focused on border control, and limits its boats to patrolling only to within 30 miles of Europe’s sea borders—leaving tens of thousands of migrants vulnerable to drowning on the high seas or close to the North African coast.

That decision has proved disastrous, according to refugee officials, who say that limiting rescue programs has not deterred migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean. “If you accuse Mare Nostrum of being a pull factor, that means you do not want people to come, at any cost, even if you see them sink in the sea,” says Christopher Hein, director of the Italian Council for Refugees, one of the only international aid organizations working with migrants inside Libya. “Nobody would be so cynical to say so openly, but this is the logical consequence of this policy.”

Father Mussie Zerai, a Catholic priest from Eritrea, has been been a telephonic lifeline for thousands for migrants for years. From his home in Switzerland, Zerai fielded hundreds of migrants’ distress calls from sea, and would immediately raise the alarm with Italian or Maltese coastguards, who then dispatched rescue teams. As his fame spread among African migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, his number spread too, even written on the walls of migrant detention centers in Libya.

All week, the frantic calls have come from inside rickety boats on the Mediterranean, with voices crying desperate pleas. “Help us! Help us!” they shout, down a crackling telephone line from the middle of the sea, to one of the very few people in Europe whose mobile numbers they have at hand: “I’ve received at least seven or eight distress calls from the sea in the last week,” says Zerai, describing several calls from migrants while crammed into boats. “There are pregnant women giving birth in the boat. People are in really bad condition. They are panicking, especially the women and children,” he says, then sighs, “It is just shocking.”

But he says his rescue efforts have become far more difficult, now that Italy’s rescue program—which had a monthly budget of about $10 million—has been cancelled. “The passengers call and give me all the information, even the condition of the boat, and I give that all to the Italian and Maltese coastguard,” he says. “But now I call the coastguard, and they say they need time to move to international waters,” he says. “That means many, many hours. In that time, people can die.”

TIME europe

Mediterranean Becomes Mass Grave as Europe Struggles With Migrant Crisis

Only 28 passengers are believed to have survived the overnight capsizing

Hundreds of people were likely drowned overnight in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized during a desperate attempt to reach Europe, officials said Sunday, deepening a crisis that has shaken politicians as they struggle to cope with the disaster unfolding off Europe’s southern coastlines.

Officials with the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Sunday they believed only 28 passengers had survived the capsizing in the Strait of Sicily near the coast of Libya. Survivors who finally reached Italy told the agency their boat tilted, and then sank, after hundreds of passengers rushed to one side to hail a Portuguese merchant ship, which was said to be coming to rescue them and bring them ashore to a European port.

One survivor, a man from Bangladesh, told authorities the boat had a total of 950 people aboard, the Associated Press reports. He also said some 300 people had been locked in the hold by smugglers. The official death toll on Sunday evening was 24, with 28 rescued.

As the scale of the tragedy became clear, French President François Hollande called on E.U. leaders to act to stop the spiraling death toll in the Mediterranean, where by some estimates about 1,500 migrants have drowned this year — most of them in the past week. E.U. officials scrambled to respond to what Hollande called “the worst catastrophe in recent years,” saying that they would call an emergency meeting this week. Speaking on Canal+ Television, Hollande said Europe needed “more boats, more overflights and a much more intense battle against people trafficking.”

But for many, such action will come too late.

This weekend’s huge loss of life is just the latest incident that has now made the Mediterranean the world’s most lethal sea crossing, and by a wide margin, as UNHCR estimates that about 3,419 people drowned last year while trying to make it to Europe. With warmer weather, E.U. officials expect thousands more will try their luck against death-defying odds, cramming into overloaded vessels along the North African coast, especially in Libya, where a network of traffickers have plied their cross-Mediterranean trade for many years.

For the E.U., the migrant crisis is emerging as both a failure of policy, and of the continent’s stated humanitarian values, on which Europe’s leaders have long prided themselves. Those values are now colliding headlong with the upheaval in the Middle East and parts of Africa, which has driven millions to flee. For E.U. leaders, the risk is that helping thousands of boat people could well be seen as welcoming more immigrants to Europe, a highly contentious issue when right-wing parties have campaigned successfully on border restrictions.

Italy has been overwhelmingly hard-hit, since its coast is the closest European landing point from Libya. About 10,000 migrants have landed on Italian land in the past week, and about 200,000 of them arrived last year. Exasperated by the lack of help from his E.U. colleagues, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said last week that “90% of the cost of the patrol and sea-rescue operations are falling on our shoulders, and we have not had an adequate response from the E.U.”

Indeed, the 28 E.U. countries have failed to agree on a coordinated strategy to stop vessels at sea or have simply devoted so few funds, that whatever strategy they have designed seems doomed to fail. Last year, the E.U.-run Triton search-and-rescue program on the Mediterranean replaced Mare Nostrum, an Italian-led program that had three times as much funding at about €9 million ($9.7 million) a month, compared with Triton’s €3 million ($3.2 million) a month. Under Triton, E.U. patrol boats operate only within 50 km (30 miles) off Italy’s coast — leaving thousands of migrants vulnerable to drowning on the high seas, or closer to North Africa’s coast.

Now with summer approaching, E.U. leaders are arguing over how to share the burden, with the political impasse continuing even as the humanitarian cost mounts. The E.U.’s new commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, says new policies will be up for discussion sometime in May — well into the trafficking season.

Pope Francis appealed this weekend for E.U. leaders and others to do more, just a day after saying the disaster “demands much greater involvement.” On Sunday, he told thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Angelus address that the migrants at sea “are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war.” He added: “They were looking for a better life.”

This past week has been among the worst in recent memory for fleeing migrants and has highlighted how the fate of people on the rickety boats have become embroiled in conflicts raging elsewhere. On Wednesday, a group of Nigerians trying to cross to Europe allegedly threw about 12 Christian passengers overboard after they refused to pray to Allah for help when their fishing boat sprang a leak; the migrants who the passengers said had been responsible were arrested after the group arrived in Italy.

As Italian rescue teams scoured the water for corpses, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said, shocked, “How can it be that we daily are witnessing a tragedy?”

TIME

In the Heart Of the Mountain

swiss-alps-tunnel
Matthieu Gafsou for TIME At 57 km, the Gotthard Base Tunnel will be the longest rail tunnel in the world once it opens for use in mid-2016.

A record-breaking train tunnel could provide a badly needed shortcut through the Swiss Alps

The sky is still black over the Swiss Alps as we climb aboard a train one morning in late March and head inside the mountains. In an instant, the sharp alpine air thickens to a torpid heat reaching nearly 40°C. The temperature rise is a function of geology, not meteorology­—we are deep inside solid rock, in the 57-km-long Gotthard Base Tunnel. More than 1,800 m of mountain is piled above our heads. “This is extremely high-­pressure rock and the water pressure is also very high,” says Renzo Simoni, a Swiss civil engineer and CEO of AlpTransit Gotthard AG, the company that is overseeing one of the world’s most ambitious engineering projects, as he guides us along a dark tunnel track. “Working in these conditions is very, very hard.”

Indeed—building the Gotthard Base Tunnel has taken decades of backbreaking toil by more than 2,600 people, at a cost of more than $10 billion. But after 23 years of work, the result is spectacular. When it finally opens in June next year, the tunnel­ will be the longest in the world, longer than the Seikan Tunnel in northern Japan and the Channel Tunnel connecting England and France.

But it’s not just length that sets Gotthard apart. Unlike those two, which partly travel under water, the Swiss tunnel required drilling through exceedingly hard granite and quartz, under the Gotthard massif in the Alps. Thanks to the 800-m-deep shafts needed to pump in air and drop millions of tons of cement for the tunnel walls and floors, the Gotthard Base Tunnel will not only be the world’s longest but will also have what Simoni believes is the world’s most powerful ventilation system. In order to bore a total of 152 km of tunnels, shafts and passages (there are twin, parallel rail tunnels, one for each direction), the workers cut through 13 million cu m of rock, the volume of nearly nine Empire State Buildings.

An Engineering Dream

All this would have been essentially impossible until the recent development of high-precision boring machines capable of digging a tunnel this long. With shafts nearly a kilometer long, engineers needed satellites to map out the entire route; an error of even a few millimeters would mean redoing entire parts of the tunnel. For environmental reasons, the concrete for the tunnel walls came from the rock the workers excavated, rather than from riverbeds, as is often the case with tunnel building. That meant developing entirely new plastic compounds to seal the walls against possible leaks. “This is completely different,” Simoni said. “This had never been done before.”

But while the technology to build an epic Alps tunnel is new, the dream isn’t. In 1947 the Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner fancifully suggested tunneling through the Alps between the northern city of Basel to Chiasso on Switzerland’s southern border with Italy—a distance of some 285 km—because the cars snaking bumper to bumper over the twisting mountain passes were threatening to turn the bucolic slopes into an endless traffic jam.

Nearly seven decades after Gruner first floated his idea, the traffic in the Swiss Alps is as much a problem as ever. The original Gotthard rail tunnel, about an hour’s drive south of Zurich, is still used, but it was built in the horse-and-buggy era in 1882, is only 15 km long and is too steep and twisting for long modern freight trains to use.

As the container ships that carry international cargo have grown bigger, the container-truck traffic that bears that freight from port to final destination has become heavier. About 1.2 million container trucks barrel through the Swiss Alps every year, leaving politicians and regular citizens wondering whether clouds of diesel fumes might one day choke their country’s iconic landscape. “The Alps are extremely important to the image of Switzerland,” says Manuel Herr­mann, head of transport policy at Alpine Initiatives, an organization set up in 1989 to push the government to restrict truck traffic across the mountains. Herrmann claims the air pollution and noise in the Swiss Alps’ five valleys is now comparable to cities like Paris. That’s more than an environmental danger—it’s a cultural threat to a country whose traditions are rooted in the ideal of clean mountain living. The tunnel opening in Erstfeld is close to the mountain village where William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow, or so the famous legend goes. “You think of Switzerland, you think of the mountains,” says Herrmann.

Modern freight trains need flat tracks, which meant tunneling through deep rock at the heart of the mountains in order to avoid the craggy alpine peaks and crevices. So the Gotthard Base Tunnel sits about 600 m below its 19th century predecessor, with just a slight incline. That will allow freight trains to speed along the tracks at 160 km/h, carrying double the load of the freight trains that now use the old tunnel. For every three freight trains, a passenger train will zip through the tunnel at speeds up to 250 km/h.

Little has been left to chance in the design. Giant doors painted bright yellow seal off emergency tunnels into which trains can move along side tracks in the event of engine problems. The morning we went into the tunnel, a few dozen workers crouched on the tracks, checking bolts and wiring electrical connections, finishing some of the last preparations for six months of test runs beginning in October, before its official opening, planned for June 5 next year.

From the start, the sheer technical dangers of the project weighed on engineers. “The nightmare scenario during excavation was a rockfall or water coming in,” says AlpTransit Gotthard CEO Simoni. (Eight construction workers died over two decades, but from being hit by trains or from falling, rather than accidents specifically relating to the building of the tunnel.) Simoni says one complication engineers faced in constructing the new tunnel was the composition of the Gotthard rock itself, which has a tendency to “squeeze together, as if it’s trying to fill empty spaces.” So the builders installed a series of steel arches to keep the tunnel walls stable. To stop water from seeping in—one of the biggest dangers in the construction of any tunnel—engineers developed custom sealing foils, which sit between two concrete linings, with the outer walls up to 80 cm thick in parts.

More Tunnels, More Traffic

Yet while no one would dispute that the Gotthard Base Tunnel is an engineering marvel, one question remains: Will it actually fulfill the reason for its construction and reduce the huge numbers of trucks crossing the Swiss Alps?

After more than 20 years and $10 billion, the answer is still unclear. One glance at the map of Europe shows the reason why. With just 8 million people, tiny Switzerland is wedged between three industrial giants: Italy to the south, France to the west and Germany to the north. Europe’s major ports of Rotterdam, Hamburg and Antwerp, where millions of container ships off-load Asian and U.S. imports and ship out E.U. exports every year, sit at one end of the continent’s North-South axis, with Switzerland at the heart of this economic circulatory system.

Even though the Gotthard tunnel is all but completed, Switzerland—which is not a member of the E.U.—believes that Europe will need a bigger network of freight rails if the traffic jams in the Alps are to be cleared. But that’s a tough sell for a continent digging out from an economic crisis. It’s even possible that the new tunnel network will increase the number of trucks by expanding the regional freight market, while leaving other countries without high-capacity freight rails, according to a 2013 independent study commissioned by the Federal Office of Transport in Bern.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s often true—new roads and rails can end up inducing additional traffic, not relieving it. Alpine Initiatives, the organization that works to reduce truck traffic, believes that Europe instead needs to ration the right to cross the mountain, through what it terms the Alpine Crossing Exchange. Trucking companies would buy and sell a limited number of rights to ship their goods across the mountains. “Trucks are driving through all of Europe,” says Herrmann. “You cannot just build tunnels and expect miracles to happen and road traffic to go away.” The tunnel’s contractor AlpTransit disagrees, hailing Gotthard as a major convenience for both goods and people that will shorten journey times and allow more goods to be shipped while consuming less energy—all key factors in a country that prides itself on clockwork efficiency.

When we emerge from the Gotthard tunnel later that March morning, the sun is high in the sky, glistening off the huge snow-capped peaks, while sheep graze lazily on emerald green farmland along the side of the road. At a rest stop across the freeway, truck drivers pausing for coffee park their vehicles, which show license plates from Lithuania, Serbia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere. None of them seem aware that they are a short walk from the world’s longest rail tunnel, nor that it is aimed at stopping them from driving their trucks through this storybook landscape. It could be years before that happens, if it ever does. Whatever its ultimate impact, however, the Gotthard Base Tunnel will stand as a monument to Swiss precision and perfectionism­—on a mountainous scale.

TIME Aviation

German Pilots Cast Doubt on Blaming of Co-Pilot for Crash

German pilots reacted with anger and confusion on Thursday after French and German statements said the co-pilot on the Germanwings crash earlier this week deliberately slammed the plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board. Stunned at the revelations, some pilots believe that the authorities are eager to find a culprit to blame, before the relevant facts are known. “It is a very, very incomplete picture,” says James Phillips, international affairs director of the German Pilots Association, speaking on the phone to TIME late Thursday. He said his own reaction was “angry.” “I have the feeling that there was a search for a quick answer, rather than a good answer,” he said.

In a chilling press briefing on Thursday, the Marseille public prosecutor Brice Robin charged with investigating Tuesday’s crash told reporters that the plane’s 28-year-old co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately flew the plane into a mountain while he was alone in the cockpit. His far more seasoned captain, Patrick Sonderheimer, had apparently left for a toilet break, and when Sonderheimer knocked on the cockpit door to come back in, Lubitz refused to open the door. Instead, he took the Airbus A320 plane steadily downwards at 3,000 feet per minute, until it slammed into the Alpine ravine, pulverizing the aircraft and killing 144 passengers and six crew members. Robin said Lubitz had “a willingness to destroy the aircraft.” Shortly after, Lufthansa CEO Carten Spohr and the German Transportation Minister each told reporters that they had concluded, based on Robin’s account, that Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane.

Phillips, who spoke to several members of the pilots’ association immediately after Robin’s press briefing, said they were “very, very confused,” and that the Marseille prosecutor, who is charged with investigating the crash, “raised more questions than he had answered.”

Chief among those questions is why the captain, who spent several minutes banging frantically on the cockpit door, did not use an emergency code, designed to override the system those inside the cockpit use to let someone in. “We all agree that the captain left the cockpit,” says Phillips. “But we have an emergency access code to get into the cockpit. That was not mentioned,” he said. Other pilots believe that the person within the cockpit can override any attempt to gain entry from outside.

Airbus has a YouTube video to instruct A320 crew members about what to do if one of them is trying to get inside the cockpit, but those inside do not open. According to the video, the crew would tap an emergency code on the keypad outside the cockpit door, setting off a 30-second alarm inside the cockpit, until the door opens for just five seconds, allowing the person to enter.

Robin said he was sure Lubitz was conscious, since the audio on the cockpit voice recorder has him breathing normally throughout the 10-minute descent into the mountains, until the moment of impact. But pilots are not convinced that the breathing sounds meant he was able to open the door to Sonderheimer. “Was he conscious? Could he open the door?” Phillips asked. “The prosecutor did not provide answers to that.”

With attention now focused on Lubitz’s mental state, Germanwings crew members who flew with the rookie pilot just days before Tuesday’s crash say he seemed totally normal. “We’ve spoken to crew that flew with him a few days before, and say he was relaxed and very normal,” Phillips says. “He was not acting in any way strange. He was friendly and outgoing, and there was never any sign that anyone should be concerned about.”

The International Federal of Airline Pilots Associations, or IFALPA, condemned the leaks of the cockpit voice recorder or CVR on Thurdsay, saying that it violated long-established practices after plane crashes, where details are kept confidential until the investigation is complete. “Leaks of this nature greatly harm flight safety since they invite ill-informed speculation from the media and general public and discourage cooperation with investigators in future accidents,” said a statement from the Montreal-based organization. “The sole purpose of a CVR is to aid investigators… not to apportion blame.”

Read next: Germanwings Plane Crash: We Could Be Doing Much More To Prevent Pilot Suicide

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