The sanctions would include a blacklist on six men described as top operators in transnational smuggling networks. But Russia has requested more evidence before the sanctions can go into effect.
The UN Security Council is considering the first-ever sanctions on migrant smugglers in Libya. The sanctions blacklist on six leaders of trafficking rings was presented by the Netherlands. France, Germany, the United Kingdom and United States support the measure.
"It's time our words are turned into action," deputy Netherlands UN Ambassador Lise Gregoire Van Haaren told the Security Council on Monday.
The fate of migrants in Libya has come under scrutiny by the UN especially since a video appearing to show African migrants sold as slaves drew international anger last year.
Who is on the list?
The blacklist includes two Eritrean and four Libyan nationals.
- Ermias Ghermay of Eritrea: Ghermay was described as leading a network that was responsible for "trafficking and smuggling tens of thousands of migrants" from the Horn of Africa to the Libyan coast, according to the sanctions request obtained by the AFP press agency.
- Fitiwi Abdelrazek of Eritrea
- Libyan militia leader Ahmad Oumar al-Dabbashi
- Musab Abu-Qarin, who is considered a "central actor in people smuggling in Sabratha
- Mohammed Kachlaf, head of the Shuhada al Nasr brigade of Zawiya
- Abd al Rahman al-Milad, who was the head of the Libyan coast guard in Zawiya. Al-Milad is accused of running an operation where he and other members of the coast guard would intentionally sink migrant boats and return the survivors to detention centers. The survivors would then be beaten at the centers, according to documents obtained by AFP.
What would the sanctions look like?
If the council agrees to the blacklist, the men would receive a global travel ban and their assets would be frozen.
A sanctions regime was put in place in 2011 which allows the Security Council to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on "individuals and entities involved in or complicit in ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against persons in Libya" according to Reuters.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told a council meeting on Monday that "failing to move forward with the designations would be a travesty in the face of so much global outrage over these abuses."
Who is opposing the sanctions?
The sanctions blacklist was presented on May 1 but Russia put a hold on the request a week later, demanding more information on the smugglers and the value of the proposed sanctions.
"We hope that the designating committee members will share with others at least some 'extensive evidence' from 'reliable sources' confirming the involvement of the six individuals in the illicit activities they are accused of," read a letter from the Russian UN mission to the committee, according to Reuters.
The letter continued by asking "how the problem can be solved without dealing with criminals from countries of origin and countries of destination," adding that "networks stretch to many European countries and the United States."
Smuggling hub in Libya
Libya has long been a popular country for migrants attempting to travel to Europe. This was exacerbated after the 2011 ousting and death of the country's leader Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the ongoing migrant crisis. The country slipped into chaos and left two competing governments trying to gain control over the north African coutnry. The Islamic State is also trying to gain ground in the country.
Smugglers have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants from Libya to Europe, primarily Italy, since 2014. The Mediterranean Route is a dangerous route, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives since the migrant crisis began.