Post #10 Human Trafficking in Libya

Kate Burke

As I have explored in previous blogs, Libya is not very progressive in the field of human rights. Last week I focused on the issues and injustices that women have to face in Libya. However, I did not go into depth on one of the major human rights violations that Libya struggles with: human sex trafficking. Unfortunately, this is currently a widespread issue in Libya.

Libya is a transit and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking. This means that some victims are exploited in Libya on the way to another destination, and some are kept in Libya permanently to be trafficked. Libya’s location along the Mediterranean coast makes it a prime setting for trafficking to take place, as often both migrants and smugglers are traveling to Europe. Trafficking networks in Libya are connected to many other surrounding countries, which makes it even harder to enforce. (Protection Project)

It is common for migrant men to be forced into manual labor and for women to be forced into prostitution.  The majority of human trafficking victims in Libya are from Sub-Saharan Africa, trying to find refuge in Europe. As Sarah E. Mendelson states in Born Free, “People without legal identities are more vulnerable to victimization in general and to being trafficked specifically” (Mendelson, 4). This is because they are often looking for work or migrating to a new location. It also makes it easier on the traffickers to ensure that they wont get caught. If a victim has no identity, the sad truth is that the government most likely will not concern itself with their problems. Mendelson highlights this by offering striking numbers; “Since 2008, when the U.S. State Department began tallying numbers on identified victims, it has found only 246,798 trafficking victims worldwide, and since 2006, it has found an average of only about 6,675 prosecutions of human traffickers worldwide annually, with an average of fewer than 4,000 convictions” (Mendelson, 1). Even though mendelson meant for these statistics to demonstrate the inconsistency and uncertainty of the numbers on trafficking, they can also display other information that is just as valuable. These figures illustrate just how prevalent and widespread human trafficking is, but how little it is enforced. (The Milla Project)

Libyan Child from Mercy Wings Organization Website

Libyan Child from Mercy Wings Organization

Photo Source: Mercy Wings Organization 

According to the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report from the US Department of State, Libya’s government currently “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so”.  Libya has been labeled a Tier 3 country since 2011 because it has no laws against human trafficking and is not making any effort to change this.  Investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders is rare in Libya, as well as identification and protection of trafficking victims.  The US Department of State also claimed that “Libyan authorities continued to treat trafficking victims as undocumented illegal migrants and frequently detained and punished victims for unlawful acts that were committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking”. Furthermore, allegations have surfaced that militia groups that provide security on behalf of the government recruit and use children under the age of 18 years old. Clearly, the country has many pressing issues along the lines of human trafficking, and not only is the government failing to help the problem, it is contributing to it. (US Department of State)

Fortunately, there are NGOs that are taking action to prevent human trafficking in Libya. One NGO that I found particularly interesting was the Mercy Wings Organization. MWO is a Libyan NGO that was established in 2013 solely to provide aid in the area of human trafficking. Many NGOs from America and other developed countries have pulled out of Libya due to the violence there, so it inspiring to see an NGO still serving, especially an NGO from Libya. MWO focuses on three principles when providing aid; prevention, protection, and prosecution. They aid in prevention by holding public awareness campaigns to spread knowledge on human trafficking. MWO employs “3 Rs” when providing protection aid for victims: rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The NGO also advocates for policy change and stricter prosecution laws to enforce traffickers. Personally, I think that MWO is a big step in the right direction for Libya. Although human trafficking is a severe issue in Libya that will probably not be solved any time soon, organizations like MWO are taking action and making a difference in the fight against human trafficking. (Mercy Wings Organization)

Source: Mendelson, Sarah E. “Born Free: How to Prevent Human Trafficking.” (September 22, 2014): n. pag. Web.


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