THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A 38-year-old Eritrean man accused of being a key figure in the large-scale trafficking of Eritreans to Europe was extradited to the Netherlands, Dutch prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The suspect, whose name was not released, is accused of trafficking people to the Netherlands between 2014 and 2020.
"Along the way, in Libya, victims were beaten, tortured and raped, while they were held in camps with hundreds of others," prosecutors said in statement.
The trafficking gangs also blackmailed Eritrean families in the Netherlands to pay huge sums of money to allow their imprisoned family members in Libya to travel, prosecutors said.
When families paid up, their loved ones were allowed to travel, but many did not survive the crossing to Europe on "overcrowded and barely seaworthy boats", the authorities said.
Criminals have been exploiting the instability in Libya, where there has been little central authority since the 2011 uprising, by detaining migrants in warehouses and torturing them for ransom.
Under the concept of universal jurisdiction, Dutch law allows cases to be brought against foreign nationals for crimes committed abroad if victims are in the Netherlands.
Thousands of refugees and migrants undertake long, dangerous journeys in small boats from Libya to Europe each year in search of a better life, often drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den; Editing by Bernadette Baum)