It is a sad fact that in the modern world today, slave trade and human trafficking is still being practiced. The trade targets the most vulnerable individuals that are escaping their war stricken home countries and abject poverty. This is a shocking realization of the dangers that faces the migrants into Libya. According to report, hundreds of people are auctioned off daily in the slave markets in Libya for as little as $400.
The migrants mostly, from West Africa and Sub-Saharan African, have to travel very long and dangerous journeys across the Sahara Desert in a bid to reach Europe where they believe that they will have a better life. “We have nothing left where we are coming from. That is why we have to put our lives on the line.” Says one of the migrants in transit to Europe. The migrants are coming from countries like Eritrea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Somalia, and Sudan. However, in the endeavor to reach Europe, the migrants are faced with numerous challenges.
The latest being the renewed efforts by the European Union to stop refugees and migrants travelling across the Mediterranean thus denying the migrants access. This has resulted in the migrants being stuck in Libya where they are vulnerable to slave trade. It is believed that over 150,000 have tried to cross the Mediterranean through Libya over the past three years. With estimates of 400,000 to almost one million people now stuck up Libya, detention centers are overrun and there are mounting reports of robbery, rape, and murder among migrants, according to a September report by the U.N. human rights agency.
Conditions in the centers have been described as “horrific,” and among other abuses, migrants are vulnerable to being sold off as laborers in slave auctions. Lenard Doyle, Director of Media and Communications for the IOM in Geneva says, “It’s a total extortion machine. Fueled by the absolute rush of migrants through Libya thinking they can get out of poverty, following a dream that doesn’t exist. There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value”.
Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the UN strongly condemned the abuse saying, “To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, quote, ‘big strong boys for farm work,’ should shock the conscience of us all.” There are reports that the individuals sold into slavery, more so the ladies are misused for sexual exploitation, labor, human shields in conflict. The ladies, as depicted in shocking videos are being physically abused, poisoned, tortured, and some are even killed and cut into pieces. Recently, following the widespread circulation of a very graphic video of the inhumane treatment of the victims of slave trade in Libya, there has been an outcry that the African and European union should evacuate the individuals stuck in Libya and fly them back to their countries.
These “slaves” are mostly sold to Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan. However, apart from those who are sold to these countries there are those who have, out of ignorance, voluntarily spend their life’s fortune to go to these countries for “greener pastures.” These are lured by smugglers and local travel agents with promises of permanent, lucrative and “well paying” employment opportunities. The victims, too eager to leave their poverty stricken homes, leave their families with hope of coming one day with fortunes. On reaching the Middle East, they are exposed to inhumane conditions and forced labor; while the ladies are physically and sexually abused on a daily basis.
The ladies are forced into a life of servitude and domestic chores. They have to clean, cook and are still under confinement by their so called “employers.” The victims find themselves ensnared and enslaved while the locals are protected by a legal sponsorship system known as kafala. Their passports are confiscated immediately on reaching the airport on arrival to ensure that they cannot escape. The victims are forced to labor for long hours, while they are depraved of food, lack of privacy, working without pay, and sexual abuse. With lack of passports or any other legal identification documents, the victims cannot even run to seek help from their own embassies. It is sad that in the 21st century we still have to deal with such cases as slavery trade.
It is high time that the international community takes matters into their own hands and stop this vice.
Are you willing to lend a helping hand to the affected? How do you think you can help?