Human Trafficking and Smuggling on the Horn of Africa-Central Mediterranean route

Human Trafficking and Smuggling on the Horn of Africa-Central Mediterranean route

As Europe struggles to manage its largest migrant crisis in more than half a century, attention has focused largely upon the refugee flows from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where years of war and instability are driving the exodus. But in 2015, an estimated 154,000 migrants entered Europe via the Central Mediterranean Route – an increase of nearly 400% over the previous year, and more than 1,000% over 2012 – most of them from the Horn of Africa. By far the largest contingent of migrants – nearly 39,000 in 2015 – is from the sub-region’s
second smallest country: Eritrea. In contrast with the mass, largely uncontrolled movements of refugees from the Middle East, irregular migration from the Horn of Africa is dominated by highly integrated networks of transnational organised criminal groups. Coordinated by kingpins based chiefly in Libya and the Horn of Africa, these networks “recruit” their clients via schools, the Internet and word of mouth; they corrupt government officials to ensure seamless travel across borders; they collude with Libyan militias to secure safe passage across the desert to launching points on the southern shores of the Mediterranean; and they cast their human cargoes adrift at the limit of Libyan territorial waters in order to avoid interdiction and arrest by European security forces.

The purpose of this report is to map out as much as possible the networks involved in human smuggling and trafficking and to identify what policies could be brought to bear in dealing with them.

The report deals with general trends and patterns of migration from the Horn of Africa.  It synthesises evidence unearthed by various law enforcement operations, to identify some of the criminal ringleaders involved in human smuggling and trafficking from the Horn of Africa through the Central Mediterranean. It also examines the responses of various national authorities and international organisations with respect to human smuggling and trafficking.


  • enhance and expand cooperation between law enforcement agencies
  • authorise UN sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for human smuggling and trafficking in Libya
  • enhanced European Union engagement in regional law enforcement and border protection initiatives
  • enhanced role for IGAD’s Transnational Organised Crime Pillar
  • sponsored public awareness campaigns
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