An Egyptian man has been arrested in Tripoli for allegedly trafficking in women for prostitution and providing a document-forging service for migrants.
The 42-year-old, named as Mohsin Rashid, was arrested in an appartment in Tripoli with a stash of mobile phones and about 14,000 Libyan dinars (€9,000) in cash and LYD10,000 (€6,500) in gold.
He is being charged with trafficking women for prostitution. They would typically be lured under the pretext that he would arrange their marriage. The man is also being accused of forging residence permits for migrants.
He represents the biggest catch so far for the Agency Fighting Illegal Immigration which was set up in Tripoli in April by the Khalifa Al-Ghweil, Prime Minister of the rebel government, based in the capital.
Arrests of smugglers or traffickers in Libya are rare with policing agencies focused on migration mostly arresting migrants.
The trafficker is believed to have entered Libya illegally some 20 years ago and has remained thanks to forged documents he made for himself before turning it into a business.
A spokesman for the agency said he would be facing trial, adding that they are hoping for a “confession” to other crimes.
In a statement released to Migrant Report, the agency said it was taking the “security threats” posed by migration very seriously. “Libya is considered optimal in the eyes of migrants crossing to reach Europe across the Mediterranean. In light of the spread of weapons, the large geographic area of Libya, and the lack of economic resources, migrant smuggling gangs that operate daily to facilitate their entry in the hundreds into Libyan territory has increased dramatically.”
The agency, which operates in Tripoli, was formed in the wake of the April tragedy in which 850 people are believed to have died in a single shipwreck – the words Mediterranean disaster since the second world war.
Tripoli reacted to pressure by the EU by announcing the setting up of a special committee within the Prime Minister’s officer which in turn set up the anti-immigration agency.
The government in the capital has been using Europe’s attention on migration as a bargaining chip to get the EU to engage it diplomatically. The bloc does not recognise the government in Tripoli, which took power in July of last year after Libya Dawn, the military coalition supporting it drove out the recognised administration, forcing it to seek shelter in the eastern town of Tobruk.
The pressure did not work, at least on a formal level but since then a number of EU countries have started informal talks with the capital.
The agency took the opportunity to lobby for EU help: “We want to ask the European Union and international organisations to help us in the fight against immigration through irregular means. Whether it’s material or moral support.”