Human traffickers and smugglers operating in Libya are making major contributions to the Libyan economy that is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of Libyan dinars, said the EU.
Around $300 million a year of profits made from smuggling is entering Libya, said Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino, head of the union’s Naval Mediterranean Force in his update report on the EU Navy’s missions that took place between January and October.
“Islamic extremists” are increasingly joining the human trafficking business in Libya, warned the Admiral.
“Al-Qaeda and AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), aligned with the Tuareg tribe in southwestern Libya, are thought to be financially exploiting these smuggling routes,” he added.
Smugglers are forcing refugees to pay $1,000 per person just to get on a rubber dinghy that is likely to capsize on route to Europe. This year around 350,000 refugees made the trip across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, and 4,690 died along the way.
Moreover, the smugglers have been exploiting the vulnerability of refugees, who are fleeing war, corruption and violence in their countries. Amnesty International reports that smugglers have been subjecting refugees to torture, sexual violence, religious persecution and murder.
The EU has been working on training Libya’s navy and coastguard forces, however, Credendino says “It is clear that the legal and political pre-conditions (needed to remedy the refugees situation) have not been met” in Libya.
The EU naval force is also waiting on the Libyan government to give it permission to operate in Libyan waters. The EU will also need to attain the approval of the UN’s Security Council before being able to conduct missions in Libyan waters.