Arab Spring fallout fuels Mediterranean smuggling rise

By Peter Apps LONDON (Reuters) – The chaotic fallout of the “Arab Spring” is fuelling a surge in the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people across the Mediterranean, and cash-strapped regional powers are struggling to respond. Last month, European leaders in Brussels turned down calls from southern European states already hard hit by the euro-zone crisis for additional support to tackle record numbers of migrants attempting to cross to the continent in frequently perilous journeys arranged by people smugglers. More than 32,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East have arrived in Italy and Malta so far this year, the United Nations says. At the same time, Syria’s civil war and chaos in Libya are producing massive arms smuggling, while drug runners use similar routes to ship North African hashish and Latin American cocaine.