Let’s stop the human traffickers, says UNHCR

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Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR's Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, called for the “naming and shaming” of known smugglers operating in Libya. Photo: UN Photo/Daniel Johnson

Human-trafficking is on the rise in Libya but too little is being done to shut down the multi-million dollar criminal industry, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Monday.

With data showing that the number of people arriving in Europe from the North African state continues to rise, the agency has called for action against armed gangs that control the practice.

Libya has been torn apart by violence since the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, but its strategic location continues to attract large numbers of migrants and refugees.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The UN Refugee Agency says that around half of those travelling to Libya believe they can find work there.

The reality is that ongoing conflict and instability have created an environment where it's too dangerous to stay, UNHCR says in a new report.

That's because a culture of impunity rules in much of the country, where people smugglers take advantage of economic migrants or refugees – holding them hostage in illegal detention centres and demanding money from their families.

Vincent Cochetel is UNHCR's Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean.

The agency is calling for Libya's neighbours to do more to prevent their nationals from heading to the unstable North African state.

"We should not dream about what can be achieved by humanitarian organisations like UNHCR, IOM, like other organisations, we can certainly do a bit more than we were able to do three months ago, but conditions remain very difficult in terms of access to those in detention, those outside of detention."

So far this year, the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy is 19 per cent higher than this time 12 months ago – nearly 85,000 in total.

Libya has become the most common departure point and UNHCR's Vincent Cochetel said it was about time the armed gangs who control the "multi-million dollar industry" were stopped.

He said that the gangs which controlled access to Libya's beaches were the same ones which sell illegal oil, and which also ship arms that end up in Mali.

The Libyan authorities had only "a limited capacity to impose law and order" but that did not mean that UN and European Union sanction committees could not to take action against known smugglers, Mr Cochetel insisted.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’42″

 

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