Cities along Libya’s western coast have seen a dramatic spike in illegal migrant boats attempting the perilous sea journey to Europe over the past few weeks. This surge has led to accusations that government security forces under interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh are actively enabling and profiting from human trafficking operations.
Local observers say Libyan Coast Guard units loyal to Dbeibeh are not only turning a blind eye to smugglers but are also escorting traffickers’ boats headed to Europe and coordinating with their activities. There have been multiple reports of coast guard patrols accompanying overloaded migrant vessels out of ports like Zawiya, Sabratha, and Surman at night, when departures are hardest to detect.
Just last week, Libyan coast guard boat was filmed apparently escorting a vessel carrying over 100 migrants out of Sabratha’s harbor and tracking its passage for nearly an hour offshore – a sign of direct complicity according to experts.
In addition, police units in Zawiya, Surman, and other western cities are accused of systemic bribery, accepting payments from traffickers to ignore their illicit activities. Witnesses claim officers visit migrant detention centers to coordinate payoffs. Some security figures are believed to maintain active partnerships with smuggling gangs, arranging transport, lodging, and brokering deals with authorities.
“Dbeibeh’s Coast Guard commanders are working hand-in-glove with traffickers; there is no doubt about it,” said local activist Salah al-Din. “Migrant boats are leaving western ports every night with the coast guard’s full knowledge and support.”
The endemic corruption has led more migrants to attempt the risky sea voyage across the Mediterranean out of desperation. As political divisions continue to paralyze Libya, oversight of security forces has broken down, allowing traffickers to operate with impunity. With European pressure on Libya to limit migration, experts warn officials now have added incentive to profit from the crisis.
“When you have underpaid security forces and a lack of accountability, it creates conditions for exploitation,” said analyst Sami Faitori. “Many traffickers and smugglers are in fact tied to Libya’s militias and armed groups. It’s a symptom of the country’s lawlessness.”