The nature of criminal networks in the irregular migration by sea from Libya to Italy

  • Lebia Fakae

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The thesis is about the criminal organisation of people smuggling and human trafficking from Libya to Italy. In order to concentrate on the nature of the criminality, the separate but closely related crimes of people smuggling, and human trafficking are conflated into the portmanteau criminal concept of the ‘human trade’. It argues that the nature of the criminality involved in this human trade between Libya and Italy has significantly changed over the last decade. Previously, scholars regarded criminal networks engaged in this trade as fluid and unstructured. This work demonstrates from a close examination of the criminal networks that they are now, for the most part, specialised, scattered, unrestrained and structured.

    The research uses a qualitative approach to investigate the trade based on unique access to the judicial proceedings of cases investigated by the Italian criminal justice system and tried in Italian tribunals. Statement analysis of these proceedings, alongside semi-structured interviews conducted in Sicily and Rome offer novel and original insights into the way criminal networks involved in this trade have evolved.

    The thesis examines significant aspects of the trade, namely the actors involved, their roles and degree of specialisation and their ‘way of operating’ or modus operandi which has become increasingly unrestrained in its use of violence and coercion, hostage taking and ransom demands, whilst analysis of the structure of the networks finds that they are scattered and more structured than networks operating five years previously. In other words, the thesis demonstrates that these criminal networks have, over the past ten years, become better organised, more violent, sophisticated and complex as reflected in the models developed in this research. These models are recommended to enhance the understanding, and likewise enable an effective management of the phenomenon.

    The longevity, prosperity and sustained appeal of these criminal networks is attributed to their ability to adapt to new circumstances arising from state policies. It is therefore concluded that the Libya to Italy irregular migration across the Mediterranean once driven by fluid unstructured networks is ipso facto, now steered by specialised yet scattered networks that are unrestrained in their modus operandi.
    Date of AwardNov 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SponsorsRivers State University
    SupervisorSimon Massey (Supervisor), Salvatore Coluccello (Supervisor) & Bruce Baker (Supervisor)

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