UN slaps sanctions on people smugglers in Libya

Measure target six men accused of exploitation, detention and abuse of African migrants trying to get to Europe


A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, on June 27, 2017.
More than 8,000 migrants have been rescued in waters off Libya during the past 48 hours in difficult weather conditions, Italy's coastguard said on June 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Taha JAWASHI
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The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on six leaders of criminal networks engaged in human trafficking and migrant smuggling from Libya, including a coast guard commander and a man accused of organising a journey that ended with the deaths of 800 people in 2015.

The travel ban and asset freeze were imposed after Russia informed the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya that it decided "to lift the hold" it had placed on adding the six men to the sanctions blacklist.

Efforts to list the six men were led by the Netherlands, whose Foreign Minister Stef Blok said his country wanted to use its Security Council seat "to improve the lives of refugees and migrants in Libya and prevent them from making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean".

The Netherlands UN mission said its aim was "to destroy the business model of human trafficking networks and tackle the appalling human rights situation of migrants that were sold as slaves on the markets of Libya".

There was global outrage after video footage was broadcast on CNN last November showing migrant men being sold as slaves in Libya. In early December, the Security Council condemned the sale of African migrants into slavery in Libya as "heinous abuses of human rights" that may constitute crimes against humanity.

Libya emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe after a Nato-backed uprising toppled the country's longtime dictator Muammar Qadhafi in 2011 and the country slid into chaos, with rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.

Last December, the African Union said between 400,000 and 700,000 migrants were thought to be in more than 40 detention camps across Libya, often held in inhumane conditions. The International Organisation of Migration recorded more than 3,100 deaths among migrants making the Mediterranean crossing in 2017.


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Recalling the images of migrants being sold as slaves which "shocked our conscience" and the Security Council's vow to take action, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday's sanctions "send a strong message that the international community is united in seeking accountability for perpetrators of human trafficking and smuggling".

Ms Haley said blacklisting the six men was "part of a larger international effort to seek accountability for those involved in migrant smuggling and trafficking that threatens the peace, security, or stability of Libya".

In selecting the six men, she said there was "close collaboration" between the US, Netherlands, France, Britain and Germany.

The six smugglers and traffickers added to the sanctions blacklist are:

— Mus'ab Abu-Qarin, described by the sanctions committee as "a central actor in human trafficking and migrant smuggling activities" whose network covers "Libya, European destinations, sub-Saharan countries for the recruitment of migrants and Arab countries for the financial sector". The committee said a former accomplice now co-operating with Libyan authorities claimed that Abu-Qarin organised sea journeys for 45,000 people in 2015 alone — including one on April 18, 2015 that ended in a shipwreck and 800 deaths.

— Mohammed Kachlaf, described by the sanctions committee as head of a militia in Zawiya in western Libya that controls a refinery which is "a central hub of migrant smuggling operations". It says Kachlaf also controls detention centres and called his network "one of the most dominant in the field of migrant smuggling and the exploitation of migrants in Libya".

— Abd Al Rahman Al Milad, described by the sanctions committee as head of the regional coast guard unit in Zawiya "that is consistently linked with violence against migrants and other human smugglers". It said UN experts monitoring sanctions claim Al Milad and other coast guard members were "directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms".

— Ermias Ghermay, who the committee said was identified by multiple sources "as one of the most important sub-Saharan actors involved in the illicit trafficking of migrants in Libya". It called him "a leader of a transnational network responsible for trafficking and smuggling tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Horn of Africa to the coast of Libya and onwards to destination countries in Europe and the United States". The committee said he had detention camps where serious human rights abuses were reportedly being committed, and an Italian arrest warrant against him for smuggling thousands of migrants under "inhumane" conditions and a October 13, 2013 shipwreck near Lampedusa in which 266 people died.

— Fitiwi Abdelrazak, described by the committee as leader "of a transnational network responsible for trafficking and smuggling tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Horn of Africa to the coast of Libya and onwards to destination countries in Europe and the United States". It said he has been described, including in several criminal investigations, "as one of the top-level actors responsible for the exploitation and abuse of a large number of migrants in Libya." The committee said Abdelrazak "has accumulated immense wealth through the illicit trafficking of migrants." He is linked to at least two fatal shipwrecks between April 2014 and July 2014.

— Ahmad Oumar Al Dabbashi, described by the committee as commander of the Anas Al Dabbashi militia currently active around Zawiya. It said "there is extensive evidence that Al Dabbashi's militia has been directly involved in the illicit trafficking and smuggling of migrants, and that his militia controls departure areas for migrants, camps, safe houses and boats". The committee said the militia has longstanding links with ISIS in North Africa.