Human Trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea is Spiraling Out of Control

Recently 26 teenage girls’ bodies were discovered off the Italian coast and recovered by authorities. Nearby, rescuers say they found survivors barely clinging to life. Multiple rescue missions ended up recovering 400 people, including 52 minors and even a newborn infant.

Investigators believe these people originated from Nigeria and Niger and had disembarked from the Libyan coast for Europe. This migration route has developed a reputation for being notoriously dangerous and these recent deaths are only the latest casualties in a refugee crisis which appears to show little sign of coming to an end anytime soon.

Though, at least in the United States, the refugee crisis is seen as largely a Middle Eastern phenomenon, many regions in Africa experiencing calamities ranging from violent conflict to severe impoverishment are prompting people to take extreme measures to seek a better life.

Such measures include enlisting the help of human traffickers, who have been vigorously exploiting the ongoing crisis for their own benefit. Desperate individuals turn to these traffickers who gladly take any and all payment and in return provide an often perilous if not deadly means of transportation to European shores.

In many cases, especially for women and minors, these traffickers will promise safe passage to Europe but instead sell them into sexual slavery.

According to figures gathered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), so far in 2017 nearly 151,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea and arrived in Europe. Another 2,839 have died trying to make the journey.

IOM estimates show that both figures are lower than they were over the same period in 2016, however, this is still a dire situation that requires serious action by several parties.

Some European governments have begun gradually stepping up to help Libya and other North African countries crackdown on human trafficking. But more can and must be done. Italy is one of the few which has recently made agreements with Libyan authorities to cooperate on this issue.

Other European Union nations need to follow suit. Though migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean end up landing on countries with coasts on the sea, the crisis is an issue that can and will affect the EU as a whole. To pretend otherwise is dangerously shortsighted.

Beyond direct intervention by law enforcement and military, there are paths to removing, or at least lessening, the factors pushing people into being desperate enough to seek out human traffickers.

In no small way, much of Africa’s impoverishment is at the root of its various difficulties – a situation arrived at thanks primarily to centuries of colonial exploitation by European powers.

A lack of economic opportunities and weak governments is often a recipe for disaster. In places like Niger and Nigeria – the suspected countries of origin of the dead teenage migrants recently discovered near the Italian coast – groups like Boko Haram have developed a presence in due to disaffected men seeking purpose they cannot find elsewhere.

The solution? Wealthy Western nations can, rather that merely intervening militarily, become more proactive with regional economic development. This, however, does not mean throwing money at the problem – corruption, for example, is frequently a problem when this is done.

Hope for Justice is one organization that has stepped up to address trafficking in Western nations. Journalists from Sky News documented their efforts to rescue victims in the UK.


This is not something that can be solved easily or in a short time period. However, if these larger issues – the migrant crisis, militancy, human trafficking – are to be dealt with, the root causes must be addressed and it will require global cooperation.

Photo Credit: Sara Prestianni / Wikimedia Commons

82 comments

Greta H
Greta H12 days ago

Horrible.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I17 days ago

To say such is unfortunate would be a gross understatement.

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Sarah-Jane S
Past Member 19 days ago

Shocking

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson20 days ago

horrible

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson20 days ago

horrible

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Amanda M
Amanda M26 days ago

so sad

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Amanda M
Amanda M26 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara27 days ago

Another thing to look at is who is paying for sex? If sex slavery is the big reason girls and women are carried by traffickers, who is paying for sex? Is it men from wealthy countries and free cultures, who just have to go to a club to find a date, and can hope to be attractive to women, or is it men from poor countries who are not let near women by their culture, so end up buying sex from women they won't treat as human? I've often thought that there must be a reason why 'name and shame buyers of sex' laws do not get passed. Is it because the lists of names would look racist? I don't know, can someone tell me?

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara27 days ago

Just as with the Rohinga these people see no reason to stop having seven children per couple, sure why not, the richer countries have plenty of money and can be relied upon to be soft. This does not excuse bad treatment of anyone. However, it has to be looked at. The richer countries are richer because they do not have seven children. They work, go to further education and develop solutions instead. From machinery to medicine, you can develop and distribute it if you are not constantly struggling to feed seven children on a scrap of land.

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Brian F
Brian F27 days ago

If humans would cut down their population, which is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, their might be a chance to end poverty. Africa needs a green revolution in renewable energy, like solar, wind and e-bikes, to create jobs, and negate the need for people to leave and flood Europe which is already overpopulated.

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