Trends in Human Trafficking – Issue no. 6, January 2020 – EEPA News Highlights

Dear readers,

The EEPA team is pleased to present the January 2020 issue of the newsletter on Trends in Human Trafficking between the Greater Horn of Africa and Europe. Please feel free to forward this information to others or invite them to subscribe via this link. If you have information to contribute, do not hesitate to contact us.



Research & Reports:

New conceptual reflections on human trafficking of Eritreans in Libya
A research publication by Katie Kuschminder and Anna Triandafyllidou presents new perspectives on human trafficking, smuggling and extortion of Eritreans in Libya who aim to reach Europe. The authors argue that even though Eritrean refugees often become victims of “organised criminal networks they do not qualify as victims of human trafficking”. The research further states that the act of kidnapping and extorting money from the families of victims could be characterized as a crime against humanity. This new reflection poses further research, legal and policy oriented questions in order to ensure comprehensive protection system of migrant and refugee rights.

New report on trafficking in Northern Niger
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has published a report concerning regulation of drug and goods trafficking, as well as trafficking and smuggling of migrants in Northern Niger. The publication draws attention to broad network of traffickers who have been gaining power since 2015 and that are involved in political structures. Interviews conducted by ICG support that, despite involvement of the European Union to curb migration flows from this region, the human trafficking and smuggling business is still ongoing and is becoming more dangerous and costly for refugees and migrants.  “Smugglers avoid the main roads and use tracks across the desert to travel to Libya, leading to more deaths and more passengers abandoned somewhere in the sands.”

Human trafficking continues to victimize migrating populations
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published a new edition of its World Migration Report series which summarizes trends, dynamics and patterns in migration issues on a global as well as regional level. In 11 chapters, the report covers a broad range of topics including migration governance, health, child migration, knowledge gaps, mobility and environmental change. It is observed that human trafficking of migrants and refugees remains one of the biggest challenges in various regions, including Africa and Europe. It also emphasizes that victims of human trafficking suffer from high levels of “depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, [and] attempted suicide”. The analyses showed that research on human trafficking and smuggling in relation to mental and physical health is not well represented in global peer-reviewed publications.

Investigation: Trafficking and militia networks profiting from EU money in Libya
Despite the pledges of European Union (EU) to fight against human trafficking in Libyan detention centres, trafficking has become a “prosperous and highly lucrative” business for militias as well as coast guards, shows an investigation by the Associated Press (AP). Torture, abuse, extortion of money and disappearances are common practices that are being fed by EU funding, according to AP. The investigation showed that “[i]n many cases, the money goes to neighbouring Tunisia to be laundered, and then flows back to the militias in Libya”. Husni Bey, Libyan businessman, commented that intention of the EU was “ill-conceived” from the beginning and that it would be more beneficial to prosecute the perpetrators rather than giving them money.


Media articles:

East African countries to cooperate on labour migration and combating human trafficking
On 21 January 2020, a new regional agreement was signed by representatives of East African countries during the Forum on Labour and Social Protection organized by the Kenyan government, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization. Delegates had the opportunity to discuss pressing issues on migration policies as well as human trafficking and smuggling of migrants and refugees. The importance of combating human trafficking and smuggling has been vocalized by several organizations such as IOM as well as United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which observe “that human trafficking has become a menace in East Africa over the past decade”.

 Risk of migrants and refugees being trafficked in Libya is increasing
The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya is steadily worsening as the networks of traffickers and criminal gangs thrive amidst Libyan conflict. More than 950 migrants and refugees were intercepted at the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan coast guard since the beginning of 2020, reports Reuters. They were all brought to detention centres in which “aid workers said they have first-hand testimony of migrants being sold to traffickers”. Anais Deprade, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), commented that Libya cannot be considered as a safe country to be returned. Due to the lack of alternatives, refugees and migrants are being “sold and resold from one intermediary to another”, adds MSF.

Judge orders to release alleged Eritrean refugees from prison
A Sicilian court cleared five Eritrean refugees accused of human trafficking and smuggling of all charges and ordered their immediate release from prison. It is not the first case in which prosecutors have accused persons of trafficking and smuggling who were subsequently cleared. Another example is the case of Medhanie Berhe who, before his release in July 2019, spent years in an Italian prison after being mistaken for the notorious trafficker Medhanie Yehdego Mered. Simona Fernandez, president of the non-profit organization Associazione Salam, criticized Italian authorities stating that “countless innocent refugees are paying the highest price of our stubbornness”.

New publications show different perspective on migration and human trafficking
New publications ‘Mobile Africa: Human Trafficking and the Digital Divide’ and ‘Roaming Africa: Migration, Resilience and Social Protection’ challenge conventional views on migration and human trafficking, reports IDN In-Depth News. The books “explain how a growing infrastructure of digital technology has been fueling the human trafficking of people in Africa, often in countries like Libya”. Research shows the increase of practices of traffickers torturing refugee victims, while using digital technologies to extort money from their relatives. Authors also confront conventional terminology such as mixed and irregular migration which tend to generalize situation and leads to ineffective or even harmful policies, while framing migration as a security issue.

Nigerian victim of trafficking is granted refugee status in Italy
The civil court of Rome granted refugee status to a Nigerian woman who fell into hands of human traffickers and was forced into prostitution in Libya. The court’s ruling recognized that the woman is in a high risk of re-victimization and persecution if she would returned back to Nigeria. The ruling could set a precedent for the protection of migrants who became victims of trafficking and violence during their journeys.