Libya is a country located in Africa. The security situation in Libya remained unstable and is now classified as one of the world’s most dangerous and violent countries. In addition to political and military power struggles, jihadists and arms dealers have gained a strong foothold, while Libya has become the center for human smuggling into Europe. According to EU data at the beginning of the year, nearly 1 million migrants and refugees were living in Libya. Trade in these people has become an industry last year generating $ 1.6 billion in Libya alone, according to European Council President Donald Tusk.
In February, EU heads of state and government decided to enter into an agreement with Libya’s UN-backed government. The agreement provided € 200 million in financial assistance to combat smuggling activities and increase surveillance on Libya’s northern coast and southern land borders. The Libyan coast guard would be strengthened to stop migrant and refugee boats from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Instead, the refugees and migrants would be taken to camps in Libya, whose poor conditions, both the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the International Refugee Organization IOM, would receive financial support to improve. Even Italy, where most of the refugees and migrants from Libya come, would receive EU support.
However, the refugee agreement was criticized in the media as Libya has two rival governments and lacks functioning authorities. According to newspaper reports, a report by the EU border security agency Frontex showed that the UN-backed government in Tripoli was infiltrated by militia groups, human traffickers and criminals. According to Frontex, several of the country’s refugee camps were run by these three groups. In addition, several of the country’s nearly 1,500 militia groups were suspected of making money from smuggling refugees and migrants.
Human rights organizations have also criticized the EU’s refugee agreement. Several reports during the year testified to abuse, sexual violence, blackmail and kidnapping of migrants and refugees. According to the UN agency UNICEF, as many as 20 people were crowded into the authorities’ refugee camps. At the same time, IOM reported that refugees and migrants who had already paid smugglers money – were sold to new human smugglers, of whom they were pressed for even more money during the death threats. Many were also forced to work under slave-like conditions. Several women and children talked about sexual abuse.
In January, 70 wounded soldiers from General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) were taken to the Russian Federation for care, according to a military source. Libya has two rival governments in which Haftar, who has become one of Libya’s heaviest military players, has strong ties to one government with power over the eastern parts of the country. Haftar, who has good relations with both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, has also recently become closer to Moscow, which has troubled his opponents.
In March, the head of Russian security company RSB Oleg Krinitsyn confirmed that a dozen of his employees were operating weapons in an area in eastern Libya controlled by Khalifa Haftar.
The LNA-controlled Brak al-Shati air base in southern Libya was attacked in May by a militia group allied with the Tripoli government. In the clashes, more than 140 people were killed, most of them LNA soldiers. The purpose of the Milis Group was to expel Haftar’s troops, but according to a LNA spokesman, the soldiers had been summarily executed. Civilians also fell victim to the attack, which received sharp criticism from, among others, the UN.
In the same month, Egypt’s air force carried out raids on jihadist training camps in the Libyan city of Derna with the help of forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar. The attack was a response to a previous IS attack on Copts in Egypt when at least 28 people died.
Muammar al-Khadaffi’s son Saif al-Islam al-Khadaffi was released in June by the militia group Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade after the government of eastern Libya offered him amnesty. Saif al-Islam al-Khadaffi has been detained in the city of Zintan since 2011 and has been wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), suspected of crimes against humanity.
In a televised speech in July, General Khalifa Haftar stated that Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi was freed from jihadists and Islamists after three years of “fighting terrorism and its agents”.
That same month, Libya’s two rivals Fayez al-Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar met in Paris to discuss Libya’s future. According to a statement from French President Emmanuel Macron’s office, the leaders agreed on a ceasefire and that new elections should be held as soon as possible.
In August, the Libyan navy ordered non-governmental relief agencies to stay away from the waters off the coast. The fleet said that the presence of the aid organizations encouraged illegal migration and smuggling of people. Shortly thereafter, among other organizations, Doctors Without Borders withdrew their rescue efforts in the area, after being attacked by the Libyan Coast Guard. The Italian government, which has produced a code of conduct for aid organizations in the Mediterranean, welcomed Libya’s decision.
In an attack on a roadblock south of Tripoli, at least eleven people were beheaded in August in an act that the terrorist group IS took.
Figures from the Italian Interior Ministry in November indicated that the number of migrants from Libya to Italy has fallen by 70% since July. The decline was the result of a June settlement between Italy, the UN-backed government, tribal leaders and, according to some Libyan sources, human traffickers. The agreement meant that boats with migrants would be prevented from leaving the coast.
Shocking images from a report by US broadcaster CNN revealed in November how African migrants on their way to Europe were sold as slaves at auctions in several communities in Libya. The pictures in the report testify to torture injuries to the migrants, which were sold for the equivalent of SEK 3,300. The African Union (AU) demanded an investigation into the “slave markets”, which the union’s chief Alpha Condé described as “bad trading from another era”.