The ugly face of slavery has again raise the abhorrent spectre of human bondage in the 21 century. Hundreds of thousands of migrants from all over Africa risk their lives to flee the economic, political and social degradation of the countries they come from to find and build a new life in Europe. According to the UN Refugee Agency, refugees and migrants in Libya are predominantly young men (80%), aged 22 on average and 72 % are travelling alone. Women tend to transit towards Europe over a short period of time and many of them, particularly those from West and Central Africa, are victims of trafficking. The number of unaccompanied and separated children travelling alone is also rising, and now represents some 14% of all arrivals in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route. These children come mainly from Eritrea, The Gambia and Nigeria. There are three routes the migrants take to get to Europe, the Western Mediterranean route, the Central Mediterranean route and the Eastern Mediterranean route thru Libya, which has become the most commonly used and also the deadliest. The relatively short distance from Libya to the island of Lampedusa which is part of Italy, is particularly attractive. It is estimated that up to 20,000 have died crossing the Mediterranean to the small island. Once in Libya however, armed criminal gangs take advantage of the migrants. According to Amnesty International, smugglers and gangs often force refugees to pay more to fund their water-bound trip into Europe by confiscating their passports and extorting them. Some Sub-Saharan migrants and refugees, including unaccompanied children, have been abducted by smugglers who try to coerce them and their family members to pay a ransom. People who are unable to pay are then often held as slaves. Although mostly uneducated, the refugees come from diverse backgrounds, but can be grouped into four different categories:
Nationals of neighboring countries (Niger, Chad, Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia). Most of them report travelling to Libya for economic reasons, and many engage in seasonal, circular or repetitive migrations.
Nationals of West and Central Africa countries : mainly from Nigeria, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Cameroon. They report having left largely for economic reasons. Some are victims of trafficking, in particular Nigerian and Cameroonian women, and some might be in need of international protection.
Nationals of Eastern Africa countries: from Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. They reported making the journey for a range of reasons, including political persecution, conflict and poverty in their countries of origin.
Individuals from other regions: Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Moroccans, Bangladeshis and others. Some flee conflict and violence while others are looking for livelihood opportunities.
Libyan officials have denounced the migrant slave auctions exposed in a CNN investigation. Demonstrations in Paris and Stockholm have recently broadcast to a worldwide audience the atrocities of the human beings, treated like cattle and sold at auction in the lawless Libya. The UN Security Council has held an emergency session on human trafficking in Libya and discussed the possibility of sanctions against individuals and entities, including applying the full range of international law and the use of the international criminal court. The UN secretary-general said, he is “horrified” at reports showing African migrants sold as slaves and the reports demonstrate some of “the most egregious abuses of human rights” and may amount to crimes against humanity. Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo has spoken up against the ongoing slave trade and killing of immigrants in Libya saying, “The current slave auctions of Africans in Libya are not only gross and scandalous abuses of human rights, but are also mockeries of the alleged solidarity of African nations grouped in the African Union (AU), of which Libya is a member. I continue to be puzzled as to the vehemence with which so-called social democrats oppose or attempt to undermine measures designed to address poverty. Their demagoguery and opportunism will always be exposed.” President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, with 200 million people released a statement which in part said, “It was appalling that some Nigerians were being sold like goats for few dollars in Libya.” He also declared that all Nigerians stranded in Libya and other parts of the world will be brought home and rehabilitated. Meanwhile in the US, Libyan authorities used the term “fake news” coined by President Trump to cast doubt on the validity of the CNN report. President Trump has long been a avid critic of CNN and frequently calls the reporting ” fake news.” Others are blaming the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton for their role in the overthrow of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011. Under President George W. Bush in 2003, the United States negotiated an agreement with Gadhafi that said if he would give up his weapons of mass destruction peacefully, we wouldn’t try to depose him, but the Obama administration didn’t stick to it. Instead, in an operation spearheaded by Clinton, the United States toppled him anyway. The overthrow turned out to be a debacle. Libya exploded into chaos and civil war, and refugees flooded Europe, destabilizing governments there. But at the time, Clinton thought it was a great triumph saying “We came, we saw, he died. Below is a video of one of the slave auctions. As reported by CNN, there are several auctions held daily, that sells hundreds of people for as little as $400.00.