Sanctions imposed by the United Nations on six individuals involved in smuggling migrants and refugees are being lauded as a landmark move sending a powerful message to the lawless country’s criminal networks.
On Friday, Reuters reported that the U.N. Security Council has placed the six men — four Libyans and two Eritreans — on a global travel ban and freezing their assets.
This is the first time human traffickers have been placed on an international sanctions list, with the decision being prompted by reports late last year of open slave markets in the country, where trapped migrants were sold for around $200.
And that’s only if they are not first tortured and killed.
The sanctions, which went into effect on Thursday, have been lauded as “a good start” by the U.N. refugee agency’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, who also noted that “more should follow.”
The fact is, Europe’s own policies are responsible for further enabling Libya’s human traffickers and smugglers.
With Greece and Italy becoming the closest European Union access points to migrants and refugees fleeing all manner of horrors — war, hunger, and oppression — the E.U. took some drastic steps to prevent people from reaching their shores.
First came the March 2016 deal with Turkey, which saw the E.U. paying Turkey billion of dollars in exchange for Ankara cracking down on smugglers taking migrants and refugees across the Aegean Sea to Greece.
Condemned by rights groups, the deal is openly outsourcing Europe’s refugee issues to Turkey, which is also deporting many asylum seekers back to dangerous countries.
But the Aegean isn’t the only route for refugees — the central and eastern Mediterranean routes leading to Italy were still somewhat accessible (and horribly risky), which is why the E.U. entered into a shady agreement with Libyan militia, paying them to prevent migrants and refugees from crossing at times deadly waters and locking them up in detention centers instead.
This was not lost on Libya experts, such as Jalel Harchaoui, who pointed out that many Western countries are complicit.
Let me give here a very concrete example of how #Western states are complicit:.
— Jalel Harchaoui (@JMJalel_H) June 8, 2018
These polices have also led to migrants and asylum seekers seeking alternative — sometimes increasingly dangerous — routes in trying to escape to what they hope will be the safety of European Union shores.
As of now, there is no move to sanction E.U. countries for their deal with Libyan armed groups, with the policy of containment gaining popularity among right-wing governments in countries like Hungary, Italy, and Austria.