The Libyan Civil War has caused a number of humanitarian crises. One of the most impactful on a humanitarian level is the bustling human trafficking enterprise fueled by thousands of immigrants’ desire to seek a better life in the West. Libya is the gateway from Africa to the West and its capitol, Tripoli, is mere miles from Sicily. Within this few miles, human traffickers have found a profitable niche underneath the cover of the struggle for power within Libya.
This humanitarian crisis has drawn the attention of the global community that has not yet grasped how to fully address and alleviate this issue. The Libyan human trafficking crisis draws its roots from the ousting of Muammar Gadaffi in 2011. Several militia-backed tribes arose to fill the gap in power. Many of these militias have a long history of using human trafficking operations to finance their activities. One such militia is the Anas al-Dabbashi Brigade that is said to have ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
In late 2017, the Brigade was pushed out of their stronghold in Sabratha, but their leader vows to return. (https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2018/01/01/libyas-hub-for-migrant-smuggling-empties-after-controlling-militia-is-ousted.html) The reason that human trafficking is so profitable is that, until very recently, it was a low-risk, but high-reward venture for the smugglers. According to the Independent, one trip for roughly 250-300 passengers costs the trafficker approximately $35,000 USD but nets the operation $150,000. The traffickers never even board the boat. Most of the time, they will phone the Italian Coast Guard to alert them to a boat of refugees.
Once that happens, they will most likely make it to their destination because it would look bad to send the refugees back to their war-torn point of origin. One smuggler even implied that he was just helping saying, “I am just glad I am helping these people, they just want to go to Europe to work.” (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/mediterranean-migrant-crisis-meet-the-libyan-human-trafficker-making-50000-a-week-10311681.html)While some of these traffickers may try to paint themselves as noble and just, there is another side of this coin.
Many of the refugees face an arduous trip from their homes to the new land. This is a big business and each hand along the way to the promised land demands payment. One refugee was told to pay $1,500 to get to the Libyan border, then faced another fee of $6,500 once he arrived. While his family tried to raise the money, he was placed in a detention camp and beaten because he was unable to immediately pay the new set of fees. Many refugees are put in other terrible conditions and situations while they make their journey. Often, refugees are raped and tortured while they live in squalor and starve. Even if the funds are raised, they never know if they will be freed. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/slavery-libya-life-container-180121084314393.html)
As the corrupt officials and those loyal to ISIL continue to line their pockets and fund their operations with the profits of human trafficking, the United Nations (UN) is attempting to rectify the issue and has recently imposed sanctions on leaders of these human trafficking networks. While sanctions may not be the solution to human trafficking in Libya, at least it is a start.