By James, Michael Igiri
Libya’s government says it is investigating allegations that hundreds of African refugees and migrants passing through Libya are being bought and sold in what has been termed, modern-day slave markets.
According to reports, the UN-backed government believes the trade works by preying on the tens of thousands of vulnerable people who risk everything to get to Libya’s coast and then across the Mediterranean into Europe – a route that’s been described as the deadliest route on earth.
Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the crossing in each of the past three years.
One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said there was no proper registration process for the tens of thousands of refugees arriving in Libya weekly.
“They [the refugees] are from several African countries and they say they have fled war, poverty and unemployment in their countries
Modern-day slavery is widespread around the world and Libya is by no means unique, what is particularly shocking however, is that this is happening effectively in the open, much like where people can go to an open market, place a bid and end up ‘owning’ a human being.
Migrants, mostly en route to Europe, are kept in facilities and when the centres get too crowded, some are then allegedly sold off like goods in an open market. Survivors have told the UN’s migration agency that they use smartphones to connect with ‘human smugglers’, to get them to Libya’s coast, and that they were then sold, being held for ransom, used as forced labour or for sexual exploitation.
According to reports, the business of detention centres is unsupervised in some parts of Libya and stories of torture, rape and forced labour have emerged.
The International Organization for Migration says trade in humans has become so normalised that people are being bought and sold in public for as little as $400.