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Human Trafficking from the Middle East to Europe

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An emerging international situation at the present time consists of the smuggling of people from the Middle East to Europe. The present sample essay provided by Ultius will consider this situation in much greater depth.

Human trafficking from the Middle East to Europe

The essay will begin with an overview of the political climate in the nation of Libya that has given rise to this situation in the first place. Then, it will proceed to discuss the issues that have emerged with respect to the smuggling itself. After this, the essay will turn to a consideration of the emerging European reaction to the situation. Finally, the essay will critically reflect on the situation at the current time and the potential implications of potential courses of action. 

Political climate in Libya

Although the migrants are increasingly hailing from a range of troubled Middle Eastern nations, most of the people in the Middle East who are trying to entire Europe with the help of human traffickers are still from Libya. In any event, Libya has become the de facto headquarters of human trafficking rings. The Council of Foreign Relations has reported the following regarding the state of affairs in Libya:

"Libya's government is struggling to maintain order and rebuild institutions amid rising violence since the ouster and subsequent death of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi in October 2011. The presence of rebel militias has increased especially since the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012" (paragraph 1).

The Benghazi attack, has also received significant airtime on the media, especially with respect to the role played by Hillary Clinton regarding the attacks. In any event, these recent developments in the political climate of Libya have directly contributed to the situation regarding human trafficking from the Middle East to Europe, insofar as there is only a demand for trafficking because people Libya are seeking to escape their own nation in order to achieve greater security and generally better lives. A total of a stunning 75,000 migrants have already made it to Europe in just the year 2015 alone (see Cook). 

According to Amnesty International, the migrants who are seeking the assistance of human traffickers have good reason for wanting to flee from Libya:

"Refugees and migrants across Libya face rape, torture, and abduction for ransom by traffickers and smugglers, as well as systematic exploitation by their employers, religious persecution and other abuses by armed groups and criminal gangs" (paragraph 1).

In short, the current general situation in Libya is characterized by the widespread violation of human rights. This does not, however, imply that it is acceptable that the Libyan migrants are in fact seeking the assistance of human traffickers. For one thing, the traffickers themselves are criminals who are more likely than not of themselves perpetrating human rights violations. Europe thus finds itself in a somewhat contradictory position of both essentially accepting the need of the migrants to flee from Libya and opposing the human traffickers who are facilitating that migration. It will now be worthwhile to discuss some of the issues surrounding the smuggling itself. 

Issues regarding the smuggling

In general, one of the main issues with respect to the smuggling of migrants from the Middle East to Europe consists of the simple fact that large numbers of the migrants are dying over the course of the passage. In April 2015, for example, a shipwreck occurred, with the result that

"as many as 700 migrants [were] feared to have drowned just outside Libyan waters, in what could prove to be the worst disaster yet involving migrants being smuggled to Europe" (Kingsley, Bonomolo, and Kirchgaessner, paragraph 1).

Yardley has put the number at 900; and moreover, this was also followed by previous incidents that were somewhat smaller in scale but similar. According to relevant statistics, this meant that over 1,500 people have died thus far this year as a result of attempting to migrate from the Middle East to Europe, which is already over 30 times the total number that was reported for the year 2014. This presents a significant humanitarian crisis that the European nations have felt morally obliged to address in some meaningful way. 

However, there is every reason to believe that it would be logistically very difficult to crack down on the human traffickers in Libya. Kingsley has written the following:

"smugglers do not maintain a separate, independent harbour of clearly marked vessels, ready to be targeted by EU [European Union] airstrikes. They buy them off fishermen at a few days' notice. To destroy their pool of boats, the EU would need to raze whole fishing ports" (paragraph 6).

In other words, the human traffickers in Libya are integrated into Libyan society in a very subtle way, to the point that it would be difficult for outsiders to effectively tell the difference between what is and is not specifically a smuggling vessel. 

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that in an important sense, the human traffickers actually have the allegiance of the migrants themselves. Even as the death count continues to mount, more and more migrants are still choosing to take their chances and attempt to cross into Europe with the help of the smugglers. This implies that the migrants are quite desperate, and that they perceive the smugglers themselves as the best hope they have to begin a better life within Europe.

In a sense, then, this would be a simple matter of supply and demand: this principle is just as applicable within this context as it is anywhere else. If there were no demand for human traffickers to take Middle Eastern migrants to Europe, then the situation under consideration here would simply not have become as significant a problem as it has currently become. It thus becomes necessary not only to address the problem of the human traffickers but also to address the legitimate needs of the migrants themselves. 

The European response

In truth, Europe has only begun to take serious notice of the migrant crisis at a relatively late stage of the situation. Again, Libya has been unstable for a few years now as a result of the political upheavals that have been occurring there; and much of the rest of the Middle East surely could not be called a paragon of stability, either. For the most part, however, Europe has tended to allow the situation to develop as it will, with the hope that it will naturally find an equilibrium or resolution.

However, the massive accident that occurred in April 2015 has prompted Europe to begin considering more direct action regarding the human traffickers. For example, Yardley has quoted the Prime Minister of Yalta has saying the following:

"There is a new realization that if Europe doesn't act as a team, history will judge it very harshly, as it did when it closed its eyes to stories of genocide—horrible stories—not long ago" (paragraph 6).

In short, the rising death toll of the migrants has awakened the conscience of Europe, to the point that taking meaningful action has now come to be understood as a moral imperative. 

One response by Europe thus far has been to have the European Union's border agency work closer to Libya than it has done thus far: the agency has indicated that

"its ships are working closer to conflict-torn Libya than ever but will enter those potentially dangerous territorial waters only to rescue migrants in trouble" (Cook, paragraph 1).

The logic here is that the closer the proximity of the agency to Libya itself, the more prepared the agency will be to respond to crisis situations in a prompt and effective way. This could potentially save lives, for the simple reason that the agency will now be able to actually reach migrants in trouble before they end up drowning. 

Another key response that is currently being planned by is military in nature. This would consist of deploying naval forces in order to directly confront the human traffickers as they are crossing the Mediterranean Sea. As Kanter has indicated, the

"aim of such a program" would be "to stop smugglers with human cargo before or shortly after they leave the shores of North African nations like Libya. European navies could then return migrants to to nearby African ports or take them to Europe for asylum review, and would destroy the ships used to transport them" (paragraph 2).

The main objectives of such a program would be to protect the migrants and to try to implement at least some kind of de facto rule of law. On the one hand, the migrants may in fact have legitimate reasons for fleeing their home nations; but on the other, this cannot mean that they should be entrusted to human traffickers, or that the traffickers can be allowed to indefinitely flout the rule of law. In order to utilize military force in this way, the European Union would need approval from the United Nations Security Council, which it is still currently awaiting (see Witte). 

Critical Reflection

Reviewing the contemporary human trafficking situation from a sociological perspective, it can clearly be suggested that it is good that the European Union is in fact taking action now in order to ensure the safety of the migrants from the Middle East. However, it is unclear whether it would be optimally effective to conceptualize the human traffickers as the ones who are putting the migrants in danger.

After all, the migrants were already in serious danger—which is presumably the only reason that they are agreeing in the first place to taking a perilous voyage across the Mediterranean. Moreover, the fact that the migrants would rely on human traffickers also implies that they may just quite simply be at a loss for pragmatically viable alternatives. In this context, it is unclear whether cracking down on the traffickers themselves would really address the underlying problem in a meaningful way. 

In this context, Amnesty International has quoted Director Philip Luther as having stated the following:

"Introducing measures to tackle smugglers without providing safe alternative routs out for the people desperate to flee conflict in Libya, will not resolve the plight of migrants and refugees" (paragraph 11).

Again, it must be borne in mind here that in a meaningful sense, the only reason the traffickers are running such a successful business is that there is a huge demand for their services within Libya and the Middle East more broadly (see Kingsley). Taking on the traffickers will cut of the supply while doing nothing to address the demand, with the result that migrants who might have made it safely to Europe with the traffickers' help would now just be stuck in the Middle East instead.

Therefore, it is clear that if the European Union wants to confront the traffickers, then it must also take actions to provide an alternative route of passage into Europe that can be safely utilized by the migrants. Otherwise, there is a strong risk of the migrants just ending up moving from the frying pan to the fire itself.  


In summary, this essay has discussed the current international situation regarding human trafficking from the Middle East to Europe. The essay has considered the Libyan background context, issues surrounding the smuggling, the European response, and implications of potential courses of action. A key conclusion that has been reached here is that although it is good that Europe wants to confront the traffickers in the name of the safety of the migrants, this effort clearly needs to be complemented by an effort to develop alternative routes through which the migrants can gain safe passage to Europe without the assistance of the traffickers. Otherwise, the migrants may simply end up being in even more danger than they were in before.  

Works Cited

Amnesty International. "Libya: Horrific Abuse Driving Migrants to Risk Lives in Mediterranean Crossings." 11 May 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/05/libya-horrific-abuse-driving- migrants-to-risk-lives-in-mediterranean-crossings/>. 

Cook, Lorne. "EU Border Agency Rescue Effort Moved Closer to Libya." Associated Press. 28 May 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. < http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_EUROPE_MIGRANTS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT>.  

Council on Foreign Relations. "Political Instability in Libya." Global Conflict Tracker. 28 May 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/?marker=14>. 

Kanter, James. "E.U. Agrees to Naval Intervention on Migrant Smugglers." New York Times. 18 May 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. < http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/19/world/europe/european-union-human-trafficking-military.html?_r=0>.

Kingsley, Patrick. "Libya's People Smugglers: Inside the Trade that Sells Refugees Hopes of a Better Life." Guardian. 24 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/24/libyas-people-smugglers-how-will-they-catch-us-theyll-soon-move-on>. 

Kingsley, Patrick, Alessandra Bonomolo, and Stephanie Kirchgaessner. "700 Migrants Feared Dead in Mediterranean Shipwreck." Guardian. 19 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/19/700-migrants-feared-dead-mediterranean-shipwreck-worst-yet>. 

Witte, Griff. "Europe Plans Military Response to Migrant Crisis." Washington Post. Web. 18 May 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/eu- approbes-plan-for-military-effort-to-foil-human-smuggling- networks/2015/05/18/fd95da52-fd6a-11e4-8c77-bf274685e1df_story.html>.

Yardley, Jim. "Rising Toll on Migrants Leaves Europe in Crisis; 900 May Be Dead at Sea." New York Times. 20 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/world/europe/european-union-immigration-migrant-ship-capsizes.html>. 



Ultius, Inc. "Human Trafficking from the Middle East to Europe." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 20 Jun. 2015. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/human-trafficking-from-the-middle-east-to-europe.html

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