Omer Karasapan writes on 2 Nov. 2021 for the „Brookings Institution“ (Washington) about possible economic reasons for the raids of the Libyan Ministry of Interior against the big refugee community in the suburb Gargaresh on 1. Oct. 2021, in a context of illegal push back practices via Frontex and EU partners.
„[…] Why was the operation mounted? The answer likely lies in a cruel if lucrative business model around migrant exploitation in parts of Libya, with aspects of it increasingly in other Maghreb countries, even victimizing vulnerable locals. The Clingendael Institute says it is now more profitable to detain and further exploit migrants than get them to Europe. Detainees are beaten, tortured, and starved to get funds from their families and friends. They are subject to forced labor and forced prostitution, many are enslaved and sold, often from detention centers. In an October 2021 report by its Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, the U.N. noted the commission of crimes against humanity, including in its section on migrants. Furthermore, EU border protection at any cost and pandemic closures mean that routes used by human smugglers and those for drugs, guns, and human trafficking now overlap, further endangering migrants.
The timing of the operation may lie in the pandemic’s impact on the economy and migration patterns in sub-Saharan Africa. A World Bank phone survey in 41 countries of the region underlined that the pandemic has seriously hurt livelihoods, food security, and human capital. Many, especially women, have lost employment, mostly in cities and towns. Closures and mobility restrictions have hurt all. Agricultural income too has declined as markets closed and prices fell. Tellingly, remittances from migrants proved surprisingly resilient and, excluding Nigeria, increased by 2.3 percent in 2020 with a 2.6 percent increase expected in 2021.
The Mixed Migration Center sees the pandemic as “a threat-multiplier, compounding existing risks and vulnerabilities for refugees and migrants.” While COVID-19 may have increased the desire to migrate, it also brought decreasing resources to do so and additional fears. Thus, sea departures to Europe of sub-Saharan Africans declined even as sea departures of North Africans increased. With the flow of sub-Saharan Africans diminished—the main victims of the detention centers and enslavement—the thousands detained in Gargaresh will allow militias to extort more funds, forced labor, and forced prostitution. For many, this would not be the first time they had to pay their way out. According to the U.N., some migrants have endured this horrific loop over 10 times. […]“