Probably nowhere more than in Libya have the definitional lines between migrant smuggling and human trafficking become as blurred or contested. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have left Libya’s shores in the hope of a new life in Europe; tens of thousands have died in the process.

The inhumane conditions migrants face in Libya are well documented. The levels of brutality and exploitation they experience in Libya’s turbulent transitional environment have led to smuggling and trafficking groups being bundled under one catch-all heading by authorities and policymakers, and targeted as the root cause of the migration phenomenon. In many respects, this would appear to conveniently serve the interests of EU leaders and governments, who choose to disguise the anti-migration drive they urgently seek support for behind a policy of cracking down on both trafficking and smuggling rings, which they conflate as a common enemy, and one and the same.

Given the highly complex context of Libya, this report proposes instead that any intervention to address the so-called migrant crisis should place the human rights of migrants at its centre, as opposed to necessarily demonizing smugglers, who are often the migrants’ gatekeepers to a better existence elsewhere.

Responding to the Human Trafficking-Migrant Smuggling Nexus in Libya

Download PDF
Share this article


Tuesday Reitano

Tuesday Reitano is Deputy Director at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and a senior research advisor at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, where she leads the ENACT programme on behalf of the GI. Tuesday was formerly the director of CT MORSE, an independent policy and monitoring unit for the EU’s programmes in counter-terrorism, and for 12 years was a policy specialist in the UN System, including with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Development Group (UNDG) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In this time, she has amassed a wealth of experience in fragile states and development working both with states, civil society and at the community level to strengthen resilience to transnational threats, promote sustainable development and the rule of law. Tuesday has authored a number of policy orientated and academic reports with leading institutions such as the UN, World Bank and OECD on topics ranging from organized crime’s evolution and impact in Africa, on human smuggling, illicit financial flows, and the nexus between crime, terrorism, security and development. Tuesday is the lead author of a forthcoming OECD flagship publication: Illicit Financial Flows: Criminal Economies in West Africa, co-author of Migrant, Refugee; Smuggler, Saviour, a book published in 2016 by Hurst on the role of smugglers in Europe’s migration crisis, and the editor of Militarised Responses to Organised Crime: War on Crime, published by Palgrave in 2017. She holds three Masters Degrees in Business Administration (MBA), Public Administration (MPA) and an MSc in Security, Conflict and International Development (MSc). Tuesday is based in Geneva, Switzerland, with her family.

Read more

Samantha McCormack

Sam is a Senior Analyst at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. She has extensive experience in the fields of counter trafficking, migration and criminal justice. She has worked for the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Walk Free Foundation, a global anti-slavery initiative.

Sam specializes in human trafficking trends in the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. She has conducted extensive field research throughout MENA, and during 2016, worked with the UN in Iraq to assess the growing phenomenon of trafficking in conflict. She is currently researching the nexus between human smuggling and human trafficking.

Sam is the co-author of the 2014 and 2016 Global Slavery Index, and the IOM’s 2015 report The Other Migrant Crisis. She is a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia. She is currently based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Read more

Mark Shaw

Mark is the Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Mark is also a Senior Associate of the LSE International Drug Policy Unit, (LSE US Centre). He previously held the National Research Foundation Professor of Justice and Security at the University of Cape Town, Department of Criminology.

Mark worked for ten years at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including as Inter-regional Advisor, Chief of the Criminal Justice Reform Unit and with the Global Programme against Transnational Organised Crime, where he lead projects and provided technical assistance to national governments, bilateral donors and international organisations in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, West Africa, the Sahel and Southern Africa, on security sector and criminal justice reform, and countering transnational threats.

A South African national, before joining the UN, Mark held a number of positions in government and civil society where he worked on issues of public safety and urban violence in the post-apartheid transition.

He holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and has published widely on organised crime, security and justice reform issues.

Read more

Mark Micallef

Mark Micallef is Director of the North Africa and Sahel Observatory at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, where he leads research on organized crime, based on a field network of more than 160 Monitors, comprising local journalists, researchers and academics, established in in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, southern Algeria, Niger, Chad, Mali and Sudan.

He is a researcher focused on smuggling and trafficking networks in Libya and the Sahel and an investigative journalist by background. His speciality is human smuggling and trafficking in Libya and bordering Sahelian states, and has been engaged with irregular migration from Africa to Europe for more than 15 years. As a journalist he reported extensively from Libya, both before and after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddaf as well as during the 2011 revolution itself with dispatches from Benghazi, Ajdabija and Ras Lanuf during the rebels’ advance on Sirte, where Gaddafi was eventually found and killed. Since then he has conducted extensive fieldwork and research on organised crime, non-state armed groups, smuggling and trafficking networks in Libya, Niger, Chad, Mali, Algeria, Sudan, Turkey, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Formerly, the News Editor at The Times of Malta, Micallef spent a substantial part of his career investigating crime. A probe in 2014 saw him track down in the UK and Dubai two Maltese businessmen wanted for multi-million-euro fraud.

Read more