Libya’s cities making millions a year from people smuggling

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Libya’s coastal cities are making millions each year from people smuggling, a European Union military task force commander in the Mediterranean Sea says in a confidential report.

The report, issued to the EU’s 28 member states Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, illustrates just how much the flow of migrants toward Europe is a central part of the economy in war-torn Libya.

In the report, Rear Adm. Enrico Credendino warned that “migrant smuggling, originating far beyond Libyan borders, remains a major source of income among locals in Libyan coastal cities generating estimated annual revenue of up to 275 to 325 million euros.”

The report provides no details on how the figure was calculated and EU officials didn’t immediately respond to questions by email or phone Thursday. Tens of thousands of migrants leaving Libya in unseaworthy boats have been picked up in the Mediterranean this year, however, often telling aid workers of the hundreds or thousands of euros they had to pay smugglers in Libya.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that 4,690 people have lost their lives this year trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, and over 348,650 migrants and refugees have reached the continent.

The EU report assesses the work of Operation Sophia, a naval mission intended to stop the flow of migrants to Europe, between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31.