Islamic State (IS) commanders fleeing Syria are conspiring with extremist groups in Africa to foment and infiltrate a new migration wave destined for Europe, the head of the UN World Food Programme has said.
David Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, said Europe needed to wake up to the extremists’ strategy in Africa’s Sahel region, the Guardian reported on Thursday.
Those forced out of Syria were uniting with local terrorist groups to use a lack of food as both a recruitment tool and a vehicle to push millions of Africans towards Europe, he said.
Beasley told the Guardian: “You are going to face a similar pattern of what took place years ago, except you are going to have more Isis and extremist groups infiltrating migration.
“What we are picking up is that they are partnering with the extremist groups like Boko Haram and Al Qaeda to continue to infiltrate and destabilise in the hope of creating migration into Europe where they can infiltrate and cause chaos.
“My comment to the Europeans is that if you think you had a problem resulting from a nation of 20 million people like Syria because of destabilisation and conflict resulting in migration, wait until the greater Sahel region of 500 million people is further destabilised. And this is where the European community and international community has got to wake up.”
A four-year campaign against the IS has destroyed much of the group’s so-called caliphate, confining it to a tract of land in the Euphrates valley near the border with Iraq and decimating the cities of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.
But campaign officials have said that at least 2,200 fighters remain entrenched in the east of Syria.
Beasley told the Guardian that the White House and Capitol Hill were “stepping up” their funding of the UN agency’s work, with $3 billion expected this year, compared with $1.9 billion in 2016.
Beyond the exploitation of the food crisis in the Sahel region, Beasley said there was a catastrophe in the making on Syria’s southern border, where about 5.6 million refugees were struggling to survive.