Migration in Libya: the transit country to Europe


Migration is a decision that impacts the welfare of the household, the home community, and in the end the whole economy in various ways (Azam and Gubert, 2006). For the sake of clarity, understanding the meaning of emigration, migration and immigration is of great importance. According to the oxford dictionary, emigration is the act of leaving one’s own country to settle permanently in another country, immigration on the other hand is the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country, and migration is the movement of people to a new area or country. Emigration was interchanged with migration to refer to the movement of Libyans from their country to Europe. Africa’s association with migration is not a recent news but a long time story. Migration has affected development in Africa in a wide range of ways both positively in terms of human capital formation and negatively in terms of migration of skilled human resources (brain- drain) from the economy. The African human resource pool is continuously depleted as the educated choose to emigrate and apply their knowledge and skills abroad. A cross-country study of 71 developing countries found that a 10 percent increase in per capita official international remittances will lead to 3.5 percent decline in the share of people living in poverty (Adams & Page 2005). The country has always been both a final destination for migrants and an intermediate stop for those who wanted to reach Europe. Before the removal and the death of Libya dictator Gaddafi in October 2011, about 2.5 million migrants is said to have lived in Libya, coming from countries as far as Bangladesh and the rest of Africa. This is because the country was seen as a transit country to get to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. The peak of migration flows from Libya are the result of the security situation in the country, the strength and connection of criminal networks managing human smuggling and the emergence of conflicts and humanitarian crises as a result of the civil war. This led to the collapse of the central government and brought about the establishment of two ineffective governments in Tobruk and Tripoli, which ended up not controlling what was left of the government infrastructure.

While migration has economic, social, and cultural implications for the home and host societies, remittances the migrants send home are perhaps the most tangible and least controversial link between migration and development (Ratha, 2007). Migration and remittances have both direct and indirect effects on the welfare of the population of Libya. But this has not been actually the case for Libya because before the removal and death of Libya dictator Gaddafi, about 2.5 million migrants is said to have lived in Libya, coming from countries as far as Bangladesh and the rest of Africa and then looking for ways to transit to Europe. This therefore means that immigrants who are not Libyans who transit from Libya through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe will not at the end send money back to Libya but to their home country. As a result of this, the effect of remittance from migration has not reduce the depth and severity of poverty in Libya.

Another negative effect of emigration in Libya is the migration of highly-skilled human resources especially in the area of education and health which can imply a loss of public resources invested in education and health, therefore reducing Libya productive capacity, and worsen the business environment. The emigration of the highly skilled can be particularly important in the education and health sectors in small countries that face severe shortages of health workers (Docquier et al. 2010b). This could be seen during the civil war as Libya had shortage of health workers to treat the wounded and this eventually led to humanitarian crises in the country. A way for Libya to alleviate the negative impact of brain drain is to facilitate the return of migrants and their reintegration into their country, and devise ways of using those skills.

The cost of the political conflict has taken a severe toll on the Libyan economy, which has remained in recession. Political strife, weak security conditions, and blocked oil infrastructures continue to constrain the supply side of the economy. According to the World Bank report on Libya, the GDP of Libya was estimated to have declined by 10 percent and per capita income has fallen to less than US$4,500 in 2015, compared to almost US$13,000 in 2012. Production of crude oil fell to around 0.4 million barrels per day (bpd).

In conclusion, while Libya have large stocks of immigrants, there are no explicit policies on how to deal with immigration or the capacity to manage their borders effectively. As a result of the civil war, immigrants were use as militants to fight in the civil war and eventually led to a formation of a strong armed terrorist group (Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya). Migration and remittances can be a valuable complement to broad-based development efforts. Yet, migration and remittances (collective or individual) should not be viewed as a substitute for official development aid as they are private money that should not be expected to fund public projects. Harnessing the development potential of migration and remittances by increasing the awareness on the need for migrants from Libya to come back home or make contribution after acquiring the needed skills from their host countries, and also improving data on remittances and migration. But a question keep rambling my head, why are migrant still using Libya as a transit country to get to Europe even with the civil war going on, and nothing really effective enough has been done by the EU to completely stop this method of migration? Every day migrants keep drowning in the Mediterranean Sea or better still are saved by the Italian coast guard.


  • Adams, Jr. R and Page J. (2005). “Do International Migration and Remittances Reduce Poverty in Developing Countries?” World Development. Vol. 33 (10): 1645-69.
  • Azam, J., and Gubert, F. (2006). Migrants’ remittances and the household in Africa: A review of evidence. Journal of African Economies, 15 (AERC Supplement 2), pp. 426–462.
  • Docquier, F., Marchiori, L. and Shen, L. (2010b). Brain drain in globalization: A general equilibrium analysis from the sending countries’ perspective. CEPR Discussion Paper, No. 7682.
  • Ratha, D., and William S. (2007). South-South Migration and Remittances. World Bank Working Paper No. 102, Washington, DC.

8 thoughts on “Migration in Libya: the transit country to Europe

  1. In my opinion, Migration has a huge impact on development, especially South-North Migration, but often times, there seem to be migration from South countries to other South countries, however, in the case of Libya, people tend to use it as a pathway to Europe in search for a better life than what their home country can offer, individuals and families want to relocate to developed countries and share in their prosperity and have access to some of the amenities their home country lacks i.e. a better education, healthcare, security and jobs (better pay too), for example, South and Central Americans want to live and work in North America (cases of Mexicans moving to United States of America), as you mentioned, remittances from these developed countries to the immigrants home countries could help in developing and improving the livelihood of people however, corruption and other factors tend to hinder development in the country, in addition, migration could also increase the dependency of the less-developed country. Brain drain imply a loss of public resources, but countries that suffer from brain drain can do more than they are currently doing to ensure their well skilled citizens come home to apply their knowledge towards the development of the country, some may argue that if these individuals do not return home there won’t be any changes, but prior to their return certain human needs like healthcare, security and unbiased government officials need to in place, however, looking at the positive side of migration, it has been observed to boost productivity through innovation and specialization.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The use of Libya as a transit route to Europe dates back to the Ghadhafi era. Libya with its then booming economy and availability of jobs in mostly domestic and factory domains prompted the arrival of several migrants from North Africa especially Egypt involved mainly in the restaurants and cookery, Sub Saharan Africans in the domestic and factory worked along side the South East Asians. The majority of Europeans mainly from Eastern Europe were involved in the health sector while other Europeans especially Italians were in petrol and gas. Libyans under the dictator were not encouraged to work that is why they had scarcity of workers at every stage of their development. They got subsidized spending from the state and to strengthen his grip on the oil rich country Gadhafi encouraged massive enrollment into the military and police to the detriment of health, education and other sectors. Travelling out of the country by libyans was strictly restricted and dangerous. The immigrants then would continue to Europe after haven made some money from working in Libya. It then became a weapon for Gadhafi to contend with the EU since his country was closest to Italy and Malta on the mediterranean coast. Economic sanctions and severe embargo on Libya by The US and its allies meant that stemming the inflow of migrants to Europe from the Libyan coast will put Gadhafi on board and it worked well when he skillfully made a deal with the EU and sanctions were lifted. Again he got 5 billion euros worth of investments and indemnity from Italy.
      From all this I can deduce that Libya as a nation has not fully benefited from remittances on emigration but at a country level it put Libya on the spot light and made its leader important. Again it increased the shadow economy and corruption in this country as smuggling became an integral part of the informal economy and exposed the weakness of state institutions in clamping down both on human trafficking and illegal migration.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I totally agree with you that Brain drain implies a loss of public resources and affect basic needs of a good and well-equipped healthcare with qualified medical practitioners. Another reason that affects migration is corruption. Corruption has brought about poor economic development and growth especially in developing countries and as a result citizens of this developing countries do not have faith or trust in their government and then to migrate to better-developed countries.


  2. Migration is a constant phenomenon. Everybody do migrate for reasons associated to their interest. However the question i may ask is not why people do migrate but Why large do people migrate from developing countries to developed countries. It is factual that people from developed countries do migrate to developing countries either for touristic purpose or business. But it seems to a greater extend citizens from developing countries travel mostly to improve their standard of living. To my own point of view, this constitute the principal reason why majority of the citizens of developing countries do migrate
    What baffles me is that African countries are richly endowed with mineral resources such as oil and petroleum, timber, gas, diamond, gold etc. that if fully exploited could foster greater development and even become well developed than some of the developed countries, thus reducing the purpose of migration. Historically European colonization of African territories is largely due to economic and human resources to be used in their large industries and promote their own economy, that is why even after independence of African countries some European countries like France still clinged to their colonial territories for survival. For example how come France with no tropical rain-forest trees is the leading European country supplying timber. The resources of African countries are largely being exploited by the Europeans either via corrupt means or by biased leasing contract terms. Most of the developing countries leaders are corrupt because they are being backed by these ego centric European leaders who happen to benefits from huge resource exports. The incidence of this action is the poor standard of living for most average African citizens and that is why the only option is to travel clandestinely to these developed countries in search of their illegitimate exploitation of their resources. The remittances from these migrates could improvement living standard and possible economic growth but this depends from one country to another, corruption, huge taxes and higher prices limit such growth. It is such a high risk migrating clandestinely in search for better living standard but on the other hand stay back at home with such poor living standard make it more risky.
    The best method to mitigate this influx of migrate is not by protection of borders to European countries to but revising policy to help improve on the living standard of developing countries,avoiding neo-colonialism i.e allow each developing country to manage it affairs and fighting the actions of corruptive leaders. Though these may be long term measures but i strongly believe that greater improvement would be made.

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. In my opinion, the reason why the EU has taken no aggressive steps towards stopping this method of migration regardless of the horrors which occur almost daily is, arguably, pretty simple; the influx of migrants from Africa has had no negative impact on European economies thus no cause for concern on their part. So hey, why bother right?

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s