This report provides an assessment of drug smuggling routes and dynamics in Libya and aims to establish areas for further in-depth research. It draws on a mixed-methods approach, which includes the analysis of relevant open-source data alongside data from interviews with a variety of key stakeholders in the region.

Libya’s smuggling and trafficking economies have been in a tumultuous state of flux since the 2011 revolution, and drug trafficking is no exception. The initial post-revolution period was characterised by changes that opened the door to new players, and even new markets, and led to a huge increase in the country’s internal consumption of illicit drugs, as well as to an expansion in its role as a transit point for drugs heading to Europe and countries neighbouring Libya.

The disruption caused by the revolution also reordered the control of this profitable criminal activity, in some cases resulting in wars between criminal actors, including several tribes. Much of this reorganisation was related to the involvement of armed groups in drug trafficking. Two concurrent and conflicting developments in drug trafficking have taken place in the past few years.

Shifting sands: Libya's changing drug trafficking dynamics on the coastal and desert borders

Download PDF
Share this article


Mark Micallef

Mark Micallef is an investigative journalist and researcher specialised on human smuggling and trafficking. He has been engaged with migration from Africa to Europe for over ten years and has 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. In 2015 he helped set up and direct Migrant Report, a specialised news website dedicated to migration. He also carried out in-depth research on human smuggling and trafficking with extended fieldwork in Libya, Turkey, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Formerly, the News Editor at The Times of Malta, Micallef spent a substantial part of his career investigating crime. Recent examples from 2014 saw him track down in the UK and Dubai two Maltese businessmen wanted for multi-million euro fraud. He is now an independent researcher and consultant.

Read more