People-smuggling networks in Libya are quickly expanding and are becoming increasingly professional, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said yesterday, in a report on the main gateway for African migrants who seek to come to Europe.
The typical migrant who travels through Libya is young, male and single, has a low level of education and is on the move for economic reasons, according to the study that is based on interviews with migrants, refugees, aid workers and authorities.
However, the research also revealed that around half of the people who arrive in Libya initially do not want to go on to Europe, but want to stay in the North African country to work. "However, the lack of stability, security and rule of law, the economic crisis and widespread abuse and exploitation pushes some of these to also attempt to reach Europe," the UNHCR said.
In Libya, many of the mostly African migrants face extortion, robberies, forced labor or sexual exploitation at the hands of people smugglers. The collapse of Libya's justice system has allowed various armed groups, criminal gangs and individuals to take part in these crimes.
"The smuggling industry is currently undergoing rapid expansion in Libya," said the study that was carried out for the UNHCR by the French research firm Altai Consulting and the Swiss think tank Impact.
Some 83,000 of the 97,000 migrants who have reached Europe this year sailed across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration. The number of migrants who have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year has climbed above 2,000, the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration (IOM), said in a statement on Friday. Of the 2,108 victims, 2,011 perished at sea between Libya and Italy as the journey in the central Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Italy is the deadliest route taken by migrants. Although the U.N. organization recorded fewer deaths in the same period last year, IOM spokesman Joel Milman said in Geneva that 2017 marks the fourth year in a row in which more than 2,000 people have died in the Mediterranean.
The sea crossing from Libya to Italy, operated by people-smugglers based in the North African country, is now the main route for migrants bound for Europe. In Libya, the turmoil engulfing this North African country has become a death trap for thousands of migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan African countries, seeking to escape poverty and find a better life in Europe.
Libya, the oil-rich North African country, descended into chaos after Western intervention, and parts of it have become a bastion for Daesh, giving the militants a new base even as its territory in Syria and Iraq shrinks under constant assault. Five years after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was toppled by NATO intervention, the country has become the main jump-off point for migrants heading for Europe, and the breeding ground for militants as there is no security or stability left in the war-torn country.
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