Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Libya

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Libya, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

LIBYA (Tier 3)

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 typically seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or transit Libya en route to Europe. Due to the violent nature of the conflict that seized Libya from February to October 2011, there are no accurate figures available regarding the number of foreigners in Libya. Prior to the February 17, 2011 revolution, there were an estimated 1.5 to 2 million foreigners in Libya, most of whom subsequently fled the country. Many of those that remained in the country, especially migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, were detained by both pro- and anti-Qadhafi forces as suspected mercenaries; some of these migrants may be trafficking victims. The government estimates that there are currently 8,300 people in prisons and detention centers, many of whom are migrants. Of those, 2,300 are held in Ministry of Justice-controlled prisons, and nearly 6,000 detainees remain outside of government control. Some militia-controlled detention centers have begun to sell detained migrants into conditions of forced labor. NGOs have reported that migrant flows are steadily returning to their pre-revolutionary levels. Government officials report there were approximately 6,500 children under the age of 18 who identified themselves as "revolutionaries," some of whom may have supported militias during the revolution, though their roles were unclear at the end of the reporting period. International organizations and NGOs report that adolescent males were involved in support roles for forces associated with the Transitional National Council (TNC), including manning checkpoints, securing strategic buildings, and driving cars; some were armed and uniformed, while others took part in active fighting. There are also reports of the recruitment and use of children by the Qadhafi-controlled armed forces and other pro-regime elements, including paramilitary forces from neighboring countries such as Chad.

Trafficking networks from Niger, Nigeria, and other sub-Saharan states have also returned to Libya. These networks use a variety of techniques to hold people in conditions of forced labor and forced prostitution, including fraudulent recruitment practices, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage. While most migrants are typically destined for Europe, a combination of continued civil unrest, disrupted shipping lanes, and European coastal patrols have resulted in trafficked persons remaining in Libya for extended periods of time. While in Libya, many of the trafficked men are forced into manual labor, and there are credible reports of prostitution rings involved in trafficking sub-Saharan women into brothels, particularly in southern Libya.

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. During the reporting period, the Government of Libya – both the former Qadhafi regime and the TNC, which came to power after the fall of the Qadhafi regime in October 2011 – failed to demonstrate significant efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses or to protect trafficking victims. Moreover, both governments' policies and practices with respect to undocumented migrant workers resulted in Libyan authorities detaining and punishing trafficking victims for unlawful acts that were committed as a result of their being trafficked. There were reports that some detained foreign migrants were sold into conditions of forced labor by militias running detention centers. During the reporting period, the TNC functioned as a purely interim body with very limited legislative and executive mandates and lacked control over all of Libya's territory before October 2011. There is also significant confusion within the government as to which laws are still valid and which have been rendered void since the fall of the Qadhafi regime. Due to the civil unrest and political situation in Libya during the majority of this reporting period, accurate information regarding the trafficking situation in Libya is somewhat limited.

Recommendations for Libya: Draft, pass, and enact legislation that prohibits all forms of trafficking; increase law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; develop and implement standard procedures on identifying trafficking victims and provide victims with protection; investigate and prosecute officials who are complicit in human trafficking; ensure that victims are not susceptible to detention, deportation, or punishment for their unlawful presence in Libya; ensure that trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts that were committed as a result of their being trafficked; protect detained migrants from being sold into conditions of forced labor; and undertake an information campaign to raise public awareness about human trafficking.


Neither the Qadhafi regime nor the TNC demonstrated any discernible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the past year. Libyan law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. In November 2010, the General People's Committee for Justice drafted amendments to articles 336-339 of the Libyan criminal code, which would have criminalized trafficking in persons, although some of the definitions, as drafted, appear overly broad. The draft anti-trafficking legislation has not been adopted. While articles in the criminal code prohibit prostitution, sexual exploitation, slavery, and trafficking in women, there was no indication that the government used these statutes to prosecute trafficking offenses during the reporting period. In March 2012, Libyan security forces reportedly investigated a trafficking ring that was moving Bangladeshi and Somali victims across the Egypt-Libya border and placing them in slave-like conditions on a Libyan farm. Following the revolution, the TNC had limited judicial capacity; little prosecution of Libyan laws occurred and courts, lawyers, and defendants faced security challenges. Reporting also suggests that some police were complicit in or failed to combat human trafficking.


The Libyan government took no discernible steps to improve the protection of trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government did not develop or implement procedures for authorities to identify trafficking victims, nor did it demonstrate efforts to refer victims detained by authorities to protective facilities. Furthermore, some reporting indicates that detained foreign migrants, some of whom may be trafficking victims, are further vulnerable to being sold into conditions of forced labor. During the reporting period, the government worked with international organizations to repatriate foreign migrants. As in the previous reporting period, the government has shown no effort to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. The government did not have procedures to identify trafficking victims among undocumented migrants; thus, trafficking victims were frequently subject to detention, deportation, or punishment for their unlawful presence in Libya as a result of being trafficked. The government also did not provide foreign victims of trafficking with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they faced hardship or retribution.


The Government of Libya made no efforts to prevent human trafficking. Public awareness of human trafficking – as a phenomenon distinct from illegal immigration and smuggling – remained low in Libya, including among government officials. During the reporting period, the government did not conduct any public anti-trafficking awareness or information campaigns, nor did it train officials on trafficking issues. Libya did not take actions to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or to prevent child sex tourism abroad.

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