LIBYA (Tier 2 Watch List)

Libya is a transit and destination country for men and women from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Migrants typically seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic employees or transit Libya en route to Europe. Both migrants and trafficking victims are routinely smuggled through Libya to Europe, especially to or through Italy and Malta, en route to various locations on the continent. Libya's migrant population of 1.5 to 2 million represents about one-third of its overall population. Although precise figures are unavailable, foreign observers estimate that one-half to one percent of foreigners (i.e., up to 20,000 people) may be victims of trafficking. In some cases, smuggling debts and illegal status leave migrants vulnerable to coercion, resulting in cases of forced prostitution and forced labor; employers of irregular migrants sometimes withhold payment or travel documents. As in previous years, there were reports that women from sub-Saharan Africa were trafficked to Libya for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In May 2008, Nigerian officials arrested one of their nationals, a resident of Libya, and rescued 21 young women who they claimed were being trafficked for the purpose of prostitution in Europe after paying the trafficker fees to work as maids in Libya.

The Government of Libya does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses and protecting trafficking victims; Libya is therefore placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for Libya: Criminalize all forms of trafficking; increase law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; increase training of government officials to identify and provide protection to victims; develop a program to assist victims; and undertake an information campaign to raise public awareness of the problem of human trafficking.


The government did not publicly release statistics on investigations or prosecutions of trafficking offenses or convictions of trafficking offenders in 2008. Press reports indicated that some traffickers were tried under other criminal statutes, though the disposition of those cases is unknown. Although Libya does not have a single law specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons, it does have laws criminalizing prostitution and sexual exploitation, which could be used to prosecute sex trafficking offenses, but there were no indications that the government did so. The 1970 labor law does not criminalize forced labor, but penalizes some exploitative labor practices, including holding an employee's passport. There is no evidence of government involvement in or tolerance of trafficking at any level.


The government took minimal steps to improve the protection of trafficking victims during the reporting period. Using established procedures, law enforcement officials collaborated with IOM and UNHCR to screen for evidence of trafficking among populations of refugees and migrants, focusing particularly on individuals who appeared to be traveling on fraudulent documents or claiming a nationality other than their own. In some migrant detention centers, an unknown number of migrants identified as potential victims were referred to NGOs and international organizations for ad hoc medical care and counseling; the government lacked a formal victim referral mechanism and legal services were unavailable to victims. The government did not actively encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. Like irregular migrants, trafficking victims may be susceptible to deportation or punishment for unlawful presence in Libya as a result of being trafficked.


Public awareness of human trafficking as a phenomenon distinct from illegal immigration and smuggling is low in Libya, including among government officials. During the reporting period, the government did not conduct any anti-trafficking public information campaigns. The government, however, supported a series of workshops for law enforcement officials and NGOs to raise awareness of human trafficking. During the year, the government provided in-kind assistance to IOM, including facilities, translation services, and transportation costs, which allowed IOM to provide anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns and law enforcement training to a larger audience than initially budgeted. No information was available on measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, or to prevent possible child sex tourism committed abroad by Libyan nationals. The government collaborated with IOM to conduct anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking campaigns targeted to the irregular migrant community.


This 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.