Getting Rich In Libya By Smuggling Humans
Religion & Liberty Online

Getting Rich In Libya By Smuggling Humans

It’s not easy to make a living in Libya, one of the world’s poorest nations. However, Libya has one thing going for it: its proximity to Europe. This is making smugglers rich.

Quentin Sommerville of the BBC reports his interaction with one of the smugglers.

People smugglers don’t take too kindly to enquiries about their business but, after weeks of searching, one agreed to speak to me if he could remain anonymous.

He’s grown rich out of the trade.

“The amount of money is phenomenal,” he said.

“A fishing boat worth 40,000 dinar, [aout $31,000] can be sold for smuggling for £100,000. It’s an unimaginable amount of money.

“The boats are brought in from Egypt, they’re bad quality and you load it with 90 or 100 people, and some of them get there and others will die.”

Poverty and the lack of jobs drive people to desperate measures and the lack of rule of law drives the atmosphere in which smuggling and trafficking thrives.

Even though the migrants are poor, their numbers are so large that fortunes are being made out here in the sand.

It’s a business worth more than £100m a year, according to a recent conservative UN estimate.

“The smugglers are Libyan people,” he said. “It’s them, they are doing this work. With pick-ups, the way they use to take us… They even kidnap you. It’s not easy. They kidnap us.”

The migrants are captured, pay bribes to get free, and are captured again. Families back home transfer money, and are left in debt.

Libya doesn’t function as a country now. But at trafficking, it is untouchable. It’s Africa’s and the world’s smuggler state.

Little will change until people in Libya have legitimate means to support themselves, and the government can make it economically impossible for smugglers to operate.

Read ‘Libya: The world’s ‘smuggler state” at BBC News.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.