A slave market in the 21st century?

Authorities have already started looking for those responsible

A slave market in the 21st century?

In parts of Libya, African migrants are being sold into slavery for as little as $400 dollars. Places where migrants are sold like cattle have becoming a chilling reality for many in North African countries. Conducted in Arabic, the migrants were referred to as "merchandise". These auctions have been reported internationally by news outlets such as CNN.

The Libyan government has announced that it is investigating claims that migrants who cannot afford to pay traffickers for the boat journeys to Europe are being sold at auctions when camps become full. "A high-level committee has been convened encompassing representatives from all the security apparatus to oversee this investigation", declared Anes Alazabi, an official with the internationally recognized government of Libya's Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency.

According to said news channel, the victims of the slave trade are migrants from elsewhere in Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean with the help of smugglers. The immigration problem in Libya has been a massive problem since internal conflicts began. Libyans have primarily moved to Europe to find better jobs for their family and to also keep themselves alive.

Most migrants paid smugglers everything they own in the hopes of reaching Europe and gaining a better life. Libyan coastguards have become better at taking down refugee ships controlled by smugglers.

When migrants run out of money to pay the smugglers, they are taken as slaves and sold for farm work. At a migrant camp on the Libyan coast, some men have had the opportunity to approach the authorities to tell the story of how they have been enslaved, beaten, and abused; they are trying to find some kind of justice, but so far it has been denied to them.

"The situation is dire," says Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). "Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of slave markets for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages. The auctions take place in a seemingly normal towns in Libya filled with people leading regular lives. Children play in the street; people go to work, talk to friends and cook dinners for their families. But inside the slave auctions it's like we've stepped back in time. The only thing missing is the shackles around the migrants' wrists and ankles”, affirmed Abdiker in a statement when the media approached the international Organization to hear comments about said act.

The situation has incited outrage in recent days, prompting a protest in central Paris and the condemnation by the African Union. Protesters gathered outside the Libyan embassies in Paris and in African capitals including Bamako, Mali and Conakry, Guinea.

Many Libyans used the hashtag #LibyansAgainstSlavery on Facebook and Twitter expressing horror and disapproval.

 

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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