Chaos In The Libyan Sea Continues: Oil-Smuggling And An Active Slave Trade

The Libyan coastguard has seized oil tankers from two Ukrainian and Congolese flagged-vessels after an hours-long shootout at sea. The crews caught smuggling oil were discovered 2 km off Sidi Said near Zuwara, a town on the central coast of Libya. In response, the Libyan coastguard boarded the two vessels to seize the oil tankers. The oil traffickers were heavily armed and were supported by smaller boats, but they were eventually captured by the Libyan authorities after the shootout.

The crews are now in Tripoli, the capital city of Libya and will face prosecution. According to Al Jazeera, there were 14 Ukrainians, 4 Turks, 2 Georgians, and 3 crew members whose nationalities have not be identified.

The Libyan sea has been a frequent battleground, where multiple groups try to take advantage of the country’s political turmoil. Since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall six years ago, Libya been caught in a multi-power struggle amongst rival military factions. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has also established a foothold in Libya. Libya’s oil infrastructure is often targeted by rival groups seeking to gain wealth. The country is also a common destination for migrant smugglers seeking to ship people across to Europe.

A report issued by the UN Migration Agency states that North Africans have been held in parking lots and private prisons, before eventually being sold on the black market for only hundreds of dollars. Many African refugees, desperate to escape their own war-torn countries attempt to make their way to Europe, but are exploited as modern-day slaves in Libya. In response to the crisis, the UN International Organization for Migration has arranged for the repatriation of 1,500 migrants back to their home countries of Nigeria, Senegal, and Gambia, despite the political turmoil that these countries are also facing.

In a statement by Leonard Doyle, the Chief IOM spokesman stated that “Migrants who go to Libya while trying to get to Europe, have no idea of the torture archipelago that awaits them just over the border.” For instance, he explained further that African migrants “become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value.”

Libya, which is in the midst of its own civil war, has seen 200,000 of its own people displaced. Five of the six countries that also border Libya are subject to the same state of civil war, which has made the situation in Libya and Northern Africa even more dire.

In a recent press conference, US President Donald Trump was reluctant to provide any direct support to Libya, by stating that he “do[es] not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles,” Trump said. He added that “[they’re] in a role everywhere. So I do not see that. I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS.”

Without any collective diplomacy from its neighbours or larger world powers, the situation in Libya cannot be resolved. With a migrant crisis, civil war, the slave trade, and oil smuggling, Libya needs help from the global community, which may duly ensure that the country is not exploited in this time of crisis. With that said, the disasters in Libya cannot be ignored, as the people being displaced and oppressed by conflict are not isolated cases and affect the world.