Interview with a Libyan people smuggler

The TimesBel Trew, Tripoli
Hundreds of young jobless Libyan men are choosing to join the migrant-trafficking gangs because they promise far more money than a job in the struggling economy.

One of the people smugglers told The Times in a rare interview that their number had risen sharply because of a lack of other work. Speaking from the trading hub of Sabha, the smuggler, who commands his own gang, said work had dried up because of the economic crisis since the country tumbled back into civil war in 2014. “There simply isn’t any other way to make a living,” he said.

In the south a “garage owner” is the name for a smuggler who typically commands up to 20 people and cars. They ferry the migrants from feeder countries such as Niger across the Sahara Desert. The vehicles go on to places such as Qatrun and Sabha, several hundred miles south of Tripoli. Each migrant is charged about 500 Libyan dinars (£290 at the official exchange rate and £55 on the black market) for the journey.

Locals are setting up on their own, the smuggler said. Even those without a car rent four-wheel-drive pick-up trucks and take up to 150 migrants a week in independent networks.

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