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Between sea and servitude: Migrants in Libya being sold as slaves for $400  

If the migrants searching for a new life in Europe don’t perish on sea, they are at risk of being sold as slaves in Libya.

world Updated: Nov 16, 2017 11:42 IST
Libya migrants,Slavery,Libya migrants slavery
Migrants arrive at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan coastal guards in Tripoli.(Reuters File Photo)

At 21, a Nigerian migrant named ‘Victory’ fled from home in search for better life in Europe. He reached Libya, only to be sold as a day labourer multiple times.

“If you look at most of the people here, if you check your bodies, you see the marks. They are beaten, mutilated,” Victory says. His family, he says, borrowed money to free him from smugglers and he eventually returned to Libya empty handed.

Victor’s story isn’t an anomaly. A CNN investigation revealed that migrants were being sold by smugglers in Libya’s capital Tripoli for as little as $400. A video taken secretly in August showed another Nigerian man, possibly in his 20s, being auctioned off as one of the “big strong boys for farm work”. In the clip, the auctioneer is not visible but his hand can be seen on the migrant’s shoulder.

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” the report quotes a man saying during an auction witnessed by journalists. Slaves sold for $500-$650 were then handed over to their new masters.

Chaos-ridden Libya has long been a major transit hub for migrants trying to reach Europe and many of them have fallen prey to serious abuse in the country at the hands of traffickers and others. Many migrants perish on the sea and some who survive, are sold as slave workers.

Italy, a common destination for refugees smuggled into Europe, has been helping the Libyan authorities intercept migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to prisons in Libya.

“These auctions are just a variation of the horror we know,” former Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino said, adding: “Men, women and children enslaved, raped, beaten, piled on top of one another (in centres). All this has been known for a long time.”

In this photo provided by Sea-Watch, migrants from a sinking inflatable dinghy try to board a Libyan coast guard ship during a rescue operation at sea in international waters off the coast of Libya. (AP File Photo)

“The situation is dire,” Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for International Organization for Migration (IOM) had said in April in a statement.

“Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages.”

CNN says Libyan authorities have promised to act on the evidence as the United Nations on Wednesday criticised the international community for turning a blind eye to the horrors endured by migrants in Libya. The body said the world should not pretend the situation could be remedied by improving detention conditions alone.

“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity.”

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 11:23 IST