Libya: Supporting health and social workers’ roles protecting victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants

Alexandria, Egypt - 20 March 2022

Social and health workers are key to the identification, referral and protection of victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants. Libya – a destination country for migrants and refugees from other Arab countries and Sub-Saharan Africa – has become particularly vulnerable as a transit and departure point for irregular migrants. To assist the Libyan authorities in their response to human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, UNODC undertook a two-part series of workshops targeting social workers and health care professionals from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Health in Libya. This is part of the project “Dismantling Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Criminal Networks in North Africa” being implemented by UNODC and funded by the European Union.

The workshops were formulated around case studies, role play, and group work to allow for an effective learning experience and a practical exchange of expertise. During both workshops, Libyan representatives and UNODC experts shared experiences, challenges and international and regional best practices on the identification, referral and protection of victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants.

What we get in the workshop will be a motivator to provide services to vulnerable groups,” said Mr. Ebada Mohamed Ayyad, Head of the Ministerial Branch at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Misurata, after the first training that was held in Alexandria, Egypt from 5th to 7th November 2021.

The first training focused on raising awareness of healthcare professionals and social workers on the crimes of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants and introduced the concepts of identification and protection and assistance of trafficking in persons' victims and smuggled migrants. Participants were sensitized on interviewing skills and the health consequences of human trafficking. At the end of the first workshop, the Libyan participants and UNODC experts jointly identified the topics for the second training.

The second training was delivered to the same participants from the 6th to 8th March 2022 and was an opportunity to learn practical skills on providing services and overcoming challenges prior to identification, screening of victims, safety planning strategies that are victim-centered, and interviewing skills.

Participants welcomed the practical approach to capacity building. “This workshop provided more in-depth information following the introductory workshop that took place in late 2021. We learned more about the difference between the victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants and the precarious circumstances that the victims of trafficking encounter and their impact on the country. I enjoyed the simulation exercise between the social workers and victims to demonstrate their pivotal role and how important it is to effectively manage the interviews,” Ms. Naema Mohamed, Representative from the Ministry of Social Affairs added.

New topics were introduced in the second training including strategies to address the cultural differences and language barriers when dealing with victims. In addition, the training included a session on stress management and compassion fatigue that the social and health workers may experience to enable “care for the carers.”

Commenting on the training programmes, Mr. Altahir Mohamed Altahir, from the Ministry of Social Affairs stated that “I learned a lot from the sessions on human trafficking and the identification of victims and the simulation on how to conduct an interview with victims of human trafficking and their safety planning taking into consideration the cultural, religious, and language barriers. Also, it was important to get exposed to the health consequences of being trafficked and the social care plans.”

The workshops concluded with recommendations for future capacity building including training, development on guidance and documents to strengthen referral mechanisms in Libya.

“Dismantling the criminal networks operating in North Africa and involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking" is a three-year (2019-2022) €15 million regional joint initiative by the European Union and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) under the framework of the North Africa Window of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The project consists of a regional intervention covering Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia to support the effective dismantling of criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking, while at the same time upholding the rights of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable groups.

For More Information:

Project Brief 

The regional project: Dismantling human trafficking and migrant smuggling criminal networks in North Africa