As reported over the past five years, Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and it is a source country for Libyan children subjected to recruitment and use by armed groups within the country. Instability and lack of government oversight continued to allow for human trafficking crimes to persist and become highly profitable for traffickers. As reported by international organizations in 2016, trafficking victims—including men, women, and children—are highly vulnerable to extreme violence and other human rights violations in Libya by government officials and non-state armed groups, including physical, sexual, and verbal assault; abduction for ransom; arbitrary killings; and inhumane detention.
Migrants in Libya are extremely vulnerable to trafficking, including those seeking employment in Libya or transiting Libya en route to Europe. The country continued to serve as the primary departure point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, with more than 90 percent of those crossing the Mediterranean Sea departing from Libya. Female migrants, in particular, are highly vulnerable to sexual assault by various armed groups and smugglers along the migration routes to Libya. Prostitution rings reportedly subject sub-Saharan women to sex trafficking in brothels, particularly in southern Libya. Nigerian women are at increased risk of being forced into prostitution, while Eritreans, Sudanese, and Somalis are at risk of being subjected to forced labor. Trafficking and smuggling networks that reach into Libya from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan states subject migrants to forced labor and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage. One 2014 account indicated criminal groups recruited Sudanese migrants to Libya through false job offers and forced them to work in agriculture with little or no pay.
In previous years, migrants reportedly 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 the desert, where they were susceptible to severe forms of abuse and human 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 to Italy via Libya, where they subsequently endured forced labor.
There are multiple reports of migrants—some of whom may be trafficking victims—held in detention centers controlled by both the DCIM and non-state armed groups, where they are subject to severe abuse, rampant sexual violence, denial of medical care, and forced labor. For example, private employers and prison officials use detained migrants from official and unofficial prisons and detention centers for forced labor as domestic workers, construction and road paving workers, and garbage collectors. As reported by an international organization in December 2016, armed groups, criminal gangs and networks, smugglers, and traffickers have cooperated and competed in the smuggling and trafficking of migrants through Libya, while carrying out serious human rights abuses and violations against migrants. Elements of the Libyan Coast Guard have reportedly worked with armed groups and other criminals, including traffickers, to exploit migrants for profit. Coast Guard officials also return migrants rescued at sea to detention centers in Libya where they are subjected to forced labor.
Since mid-2015, ISIS in Libya has abducted and taken into captivity at least 540 migrants and refugees, including at least 63 women whom ISIS forced into sexual slavery for its fighters. Since 2013, numerous reports indicate militias, some of which are used as combat forces or security enforcement by the government, recruit and use Libyan children younger than 18 years old. Children associated with armed groups are also reportedly exposed to sexual violence. An international organization reported that armed groups recruited and used children throughout 2015. For example, groups affiliated to ISIS operated training camps south of Sirte, and in December 2015, 85 children under 16 years old attended a graduation ceremony for a training camp.