Human Trafficking and Smuggling Ecosystems: North Africa and the Sahel

Since 2018, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) has undertaken a monthly monitoring program focusing on the political economy of human smuggling and trafficking in North Africa and the Sahel.

The project originated from the GI-TOC’s 2017 publication “The Human Conveyor Belt”. This was followed by the monitoring project’s first report, “The Human Conveyor Belt Broken”, published in early 2019. This report describes the fall in protection racketeering by Libyan militias that has underpinned the increase in irregular migration between 2014 and 2017 and reported on the impact of the application of a law criminalizing human trafficking in Niger between mid-2016 and 2019.

The project’s second report, “Conflict, Adaptation and COVID”, published in early 2021, detailed the evolution of human smuggling and trafficking in the face of the Libyan conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic at the scale of the region, highlighting both the disruption of the system and its broader continuity.

Rather than a single report covering trends and dynamics in 2021, the GI-TOC publishes a series of notes, each covering a country as well as a regional summary note.

These build on previous reports, mapping smuggling and trafficking, as well as the political and security dynamics that impacted and influenced the irregular transport of migrants in 2021.

The series of notes highlights the growing importance of smuggling from and through Libya, Tunisia, Niger, Chad and Mali and how the momentum is intensifying as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes and an uneasy peace is being maintained in Libya.

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