Libya Slave Market and Slavery: Migrants Never in Short Supply

On November 21st 2017, the world woke up to the shocking news of barbaric crimes against humanity happening in Libya – modern slavery in Libya slave markets.

Footage aired on CNN revealed the details of a well-established slave trade in Libya. African migrants to Europe found themselves stuck in Libya. There they would be captured and sold off into slavery or prostitution, some for as low as $400. The revelation elicited widespread outrage with many world leaders condemning the trade. The Libyan government also said it would launch investigations.

Greener Pastures

Libya has for long been the preferred sea route for those traveling to the European shores. Hundreds of thousands of migrants, mostly from West and Central Africa, make their way yearly to Libya. From here they sail to Malta or Italy and launch into other European countries. Thousands of them have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean sea. This has, however, never dampened the spirits of others who still dream of reaching Europe.

For many, the decision to travel to Europe is caused by severe poverty and harsh economic times at home. Others follow the misguided notion that it’s all a straight path in Europe. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all after greener pastures. A few have made it, but for many others, it is the last time their families set eyes on them. Either due to loss of live or loss of freedom to slavery on slave markets in Lybia.

Following the toppling of the dictatorial regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, things went south. Security and economic pillars collapsed. The country has been war-torn ever since and never recovered. This, in turn, presented a suitable stage for smugglers, bandits, and rebels who carry out their illegal activities without much care as the rule of law is ineffective. While unlawful migration was already taking place during Gaddafi, his exit and the subsequent ineffectiveness of the rule of law has only served to triple the migration rate.

Slavery: 500,000+ Migrants

The excessive influx of migrants from Africa to European countries has prompted the formulation of control measures aimed at blocking further entry. Italy has been on the forefront of it and has gone further to even facilitate the Libyan government in preventing the migrants from crossing the Mediterranean. This has been through the provision of boats that patrol and capture smugglers’ vessels. It has, in turn, caused the number of migrants in Libya to swell as many keep on coming while none are leaving. Currently, it is estimated that more than 500,000 migrants are now trapped in the country.

Libya Slave Markets: Booming Slave Trade

Before leaving their homes for Europe, many of these migrants sell off their entire possessions. From the little money obtained, they pay the smugglers who promise them safe passage up to the sea. They then embark on the long and tiresome journey across the deadly and venomous Sahara desert. Some do not make it across and are discarded in the desert. For those who reach Libya, their hope is rudely cut off as they now can’t move any further. Their smugglers keep them in warehouses as many are unwilling to return to their homes having sold everything and traveled all the way.

These warehouses are characterized by inhumane living conditions, torture, rape, extortion and forced labor. It is also from here that the smugglers are now selling off the migrants into slavery in public auctions. The slave trade business, which is done in broad daylight, is booming as migrants are never in short supply. The price is determined by the abilities of each individual.

Everybody knew

Activists have accused world leaders of hypocrisy in their reactions to the slavery revelation, saying they long knew about it but did nothing. Alioune Tine, the West Africa director of Amnesty International, said that all these horrific acts of slave markets were well recorded and documented in Libya and therefore it was nothing new. In April 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had conducted an investigation and found evidence of slavery in Libya. Nothing was done still. Even though the Libyan government has promised to launch investigations on the matter, it has expressed denial of the CNN report. The claim was further anchored when US president Donald Trump, in a tweet, sensationally discredited CNN accusing it of fake news.

Currently, the African Union in collaboration with individual African countries is working to rescue migrants in Libya. Nigeria, for instance, has already brought home 144 of its citizens. The AU focuses on repatriating at least 20,000 migrants in the next six weeks. Rwanda, on the other hand, has offered to shelter 30,000 of the migrants. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN rights chief has also urged the international community to step in and help resolve the matter.

About Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer based in Kenya. He's also a professionally trained health officer and a great enthusiast of science and technology. Besides writing, he enjoys doing motivational speaking and possesses strong opinions on life. He's a lover of people and enjoys good company. He's also a devoted Christian, but respects the beliefs of others.

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