An ex-member of a trafficking gang based in Libya has given us a chilling insight into the criminal world of human-trafficking operations.
Lovin Malta recently secured a conversation with the ex-member, who was based in Zuwara, Libya, for a deep dive into this veiled world on the condition of anonymity.
In his own words, he describes the trafficking network as operating “like a drug empire” with transportation routes spanning the entirety of the African continent.
“Now they have got so big, it is like a drug empire, they have a transportation network all over the continent before they used to only take money so they can get you from Libya to Europe, recently they can get you all the way from the Saharan border to the shores,” he explained.
Two main trafficking channels exist, each with its own dangers and price tags. The first involves large cargo ships, a service that costs between €500- €2000.
This method, often used by locals from Libya and Tunisia, requires “good connections with the crew” and is considered the safer option of the two. Traffickers bribe crew members to hide the migrants until they reach Europe, usually Italy.
The second method, more widely known and used, relies on small, regular boats. For a fee ranging from €300- €500, migrants board dangerous and overcrowded vessels, often alongside others from African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian nations.
“They do not pay the traffickers to get on the boat, any person can buy these cheap dinghy boats and head north, they pay them because they have connections with the corrupt Libyan and Tunisian coast guard so their vessels are purposely ignored until they reach Europe.”
Despite the risks – some boats don’t make it, and even when they do, a third of the passengers may not survive – the migrants are willing to face the dangers.
“They do not care; it’s almost like they have nothing to lose,” he said, highlighting the desperation that fuels this trade.
Our source explained that these traffickers pay individuals to be ‘ambassadors’ who message specifically young people online or even in person and encourage them to attempt to go to Europe.
“They are trying to target the youth because they are the ones who see on the internet what it is like in Europe compared to their torn country.”
For an additional fee, the traffickers will even connect migrants with individuals who can forge European passports, residence permits, and driving licenses.
But humans aren’t the only commodity being trafficked. Our informant tells us that these gangs also deal in cash, drugs, and petrol. Their operations are so lucrative that rivalries have erupted into full-blown gang wars.
“It’s like the cartel in the Narcos movies.”
Shockingly, the heads of these gangs are not well-known figures. Their identities and locations are well-known, and yet most of them remain at large.
“The heads of these gangs are well-known, they know who they are and where they are, yet for some reason, they are not sending anyone to capture them!”
“It is almost like people in power want them there, funny enough I know these kingpins of trafficking have luxury houses and yachts abroad and gets special visas to travel to Europe.”
This deep dive into the operations of human trafficking rings in Africa paints a horrifying picture of a ruthless industry that thrives on human desperation. It also raises questions about the complicity of those in power who allow these traffickers to operate with impunity.
However, with the courage of individuals willing to expose these operations, there may yet be hope for justice and an end to this human tragedy.