2015 Trafficking in Persons Report – Libya

Libya – Tier 3

Due to large-scale violence driven by militias, civil unrest, and increased lawlessness in Libya that worsened in 2014, accurate information on human trafficking became increasingly difficult to obtain—in part due to the withdrawal of most diplomatic missions, international organizations, and NGOs from the country. Trafficking victims or those vulnerable to trafficking, such as migrant workers, who remain in the country may be vulnerable to increased violence. In February 2015, the media reported 15,000 Egyptian migrant laborers had fled Libya following the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Migrants seeking employment in Libya as laborers or domestic workers or who transit Libya en route to Europe are vulnerable to trafficking. In 2014, an international organization reported Syrian nationals temporarily residing in Sudan preferred to travel through Libya en route to Italy with the use of smugglers; these Syrians are at risk of trafficking. In February 2015, the media reported a Russian trafficking network brought hundreds of Bangladeshi nationals via Libya to Italy, where they subsequently endured forced labor. Prostitution rings reportedly subject sub-Saharan women to sex trafficking in brothels, particularly in southern Libya. Nigerian women are at heightened risk of being forced into prostitution, while Eritreans, Sudanese, and Somalis are at risk of being subjected to forced labor in Libya. Trafficking networks reaching into Libya from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan states subject migrants to forced labor and forced prostitution following fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage. One 2014 account indicated criminal groups recruited Sudanese migrants to Libya through false job offers and subsequently forced them to work in agriculture with little or no pay. Private employers in Libya mobilize detained migrants—from prisons and detention centers, including some under the control of the previous interim government—for forced labor on farms or construction sites; when the work is completed or the employers no longer require the migrants’ labor, employers return them to detention. In previous years, migrants paid smuggling fees to reach Tripoli, often under false promises of employment or eventual transit to Europe. Once these victims crossed the Libyan border, they were sometimes abandoned in southern cities or even the desert, where they were susceptible to severe forms of abuse and human trafficking. Since 2013, numerous reports indicate militias and irregular armed groups, including some affiliated with the government, conscript Libyan children under the age of 18.

The Government of Libya does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore Libya is placed on Tier 3. The government’s capacity to address human trafficking was significantly hindered during the reporting period as it struggled to consolidate control over its territory and counter militia and extremist violence. Courts in major cities throughout the country ceased to function in 2014, preventing efforts to investigate trafficking crimes or bring trafficking offenders to justice. The government did not identify or provide protection services to victims of trafficking, while authorities continued to punish victims for unlawful acts that were committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. As in previous years, the government did not address reports of detained foreign migrants being sold into forced labor with the complicity of prison and detention center guards. It failed to prevent and provide protection to children under the age of 18 who were recruited and used by militia groups, some of which are affiliated with the government.

Recommendations for Libya:

Ensure children are not used and recruited into government and government-affiliated armed forces, and protect children who were recruited into these forces; build law enforcement capacity to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, including officials who are complicit in human trafficking and the recruitment of child soldiers; enact legislation that prohibits all forms of human trafficking; protect detained migrants from being sold into forced labor, and develop and implement standard procedures on identifying trafficking victims and providing victims with protection; ensure trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as immigration or prostitution violations; provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and judicial officials; and undertake an information campaign to raise public awareness about forced labor and sex trafficking.

Prosecution

The government did not conduct anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Libyan law does not prohibit all forms of human trafficking. Articles in the penal code prohibit trafficking of women for the purposes of prostitution, sexual exploitation, and slavery, and child sex trafficking; however, the articles do not address forced labor, nor are they applicable to men. Though draft amendments to Articles 336-339 of the criminal code would criminalize trafficking in persons, the amendments remained pending since first drafted in 2010. The judicial system was not functioning in 2014 due to militia and extremist violence. Though the Ministry of Interior was nominally responsible for anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, it was unable to carry out any operations, including those against trafficking, during the majority of the reporting period. Therefore, the government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any trafficking offenders. Despite allegations of complicity, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. As in the previous reporting period, the government did not investigate or punish prison officials and detention camp guards who allowed private employers to force detained migrants to work on farms or construction sites. The government did not take efforts to investigate or punish government-aligned militias or other armed groups that recruited and used child soldiers.  The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for officials.

Protection

The government did not identify or provide protection to trafficking victims. The government did not have any policy structures, institutional capacity, or resources for the provision of protective services to trafficking victims. The government did not proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as foreign migrants, street children, and women and girls in prostitution. It also failed to take measures to protect children recruited by militia groups, some of which were aligned with the government, as well as children recruited by informal military units. The government did not protect trafficking victims from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; trafficking victims were frequently treated as illegal migrants and subjected to detention, punishment, and deportation for various offenses, including prostitution and illegally working and residing in Libya. Furthermore, authorities made no effort to protect detained foreign migrants, who continued to be sold into forced labor by private employers on farms and construction sites. The government did not encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. It did not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they faced hardship or retribution.

Prevention

The government lacked the institutional capacity and resources to prevent human trafficking, and it did not display the political will to prioritize such efforts. The government did not have a national coordinating body responsible for combating human trafficking. The government did not conduct any public anti-trafficking awareness campaigns, nor did it take actions to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor or to prevent child sex tourism. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. While ministerial regulations prohibited the recruitment and use of child soldiers, the government took no steps to prevent the recruitment and use of children by militia groups and affiliated armed groups operating throughout the country.