World News

France pushes U.N. to impose sanctions over Libya migrant crisis

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it wanted the United Nations Security Council to consider imposing targeted sanctions on human traffickers operating in Libya after a video appearing to show African migrants sold as slaves sparked global outrage.

Several members of the 15-member Security Council expressed their horror at the video during a meeting on Tuesday, requested by France, to discuss human trafficking in Libya. The footage broadcast earlier this month by CNN showed what it said was an auction of men to Libyan buyers as farmhands and sold for $400 each.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the council should use sanctions to help stamp out trafficking in Libya.

“France will propose to assist the sanctions committee ... in identifying responsible individuals and entities for trafficking through Libyan territory,” Delattre told the council. “We count upon support of the members of the council to make headway to that end.”

Under a sanctions regime set up in 2011, the Security Council is able to impose a global asset freeze and travel ban 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.”

France can propose names for targeted U.N. sanctions but needs to win consensus support within the Security Council’s 15-member Libya sanctions committee.

Some council members expressed support for the possibility of imposing targeted sanctions, while others backed the council first issuing a statement. Diplomats said France, Britain and Sweden were drafting a statement.

“We all have a responsibility to act. This is not the moment to pass the buck,” said Sweden’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Carl Skau.

Libya descended into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 led to the overthrow and killing of leader Muammar Gaddafi, with two competing governments backed by militias scrambling for control of the oil-producing country. Islamic State militants have also gained a foothold in the North African state.

People smugglers operating with impunity in Libya have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe, mainly Italy, by sea since 2014. Thousands have died during the voyages.

The Security Council last week adopted an Italian-drafted resolution urging tougher action to crack down on human trafficking and modern slavery worldwide.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Andrew Hay