Footage obtained by CNN of an alleged auction of young Africans at an open market in Libya sent shockwaves through the diasporan community and the leaders of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The shocking images, shared worldwide on social media, were “despicable”, declared President Alpha Conde of Guinea, current chair of the African Union. “These modern slavery practices must end and the African Union will use all the tools at its disposal.”
In April, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had gathered evidence of slavery in Libya.
The recent footage appears to show youths from Niger and other sub-Saharan countries being sold to buyers for about $400 at undisclosed locations in Libya.
The IOM’s chief of mission for Libya, Othman Belbeisi, told the BBC at the time that migrants were priced according to their abilities.
Libya, the biggest jumping-off point for migrants trying to reach Europe, is now home to a thriving trade in humans, wrote Sudarsan Raghavan in an investigative piece published in July.
The exploitation of desperate migrants highlights the discredited European Union effort to pay millions to Libya to enforce stricter border controls and maintain migrant assistance centers that respect “international humanitarian standards.”
But instead of getting better treatment, migrants found at sea are being returned to Libya to face more exploitation and violence.
[pullquote]But instead of getting better treatment, migrants found at sea are being returned to Libya to face more exploitation and violence.[/pullquote]
Research by the U.S.-based Refugees International (RI)warned that efforts to halt the exodus from Libya would fuel “horrific abuses.”
“The fate of people who are seeking international protection is effectively absent from the plans outlined by EU leaders to tackle the Central Mediterranean route,” wrote the rights group.
Citing the ongoing violence and chaos in Libya, a country that lacks an asylum system and where the rule of law is absent, RI urged EU countries to accept people on their territory through orderly, legal processes that are viable alternatives to ruthless criminal networks.
“The EU and its member states should also ensure that their funding and actions in Libya do not result in or contribute to human rights abuses against refugees and migrants.”
Meanwhile, Manchester United soccer star Paul Pogba in a triumphant performance dedicated a goal to the migrants sold as slaves, writing on Instagram: “My prayers go to those suffering slavery in Libya. May Allah be by your side and may this cruelty come to an end!”
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