“The men on the pick-up were brought to a square, or parking lot, where a kind of slave trade was happening. There were locals – he described them as Arabs – buying sub-Saharan migrants.” Livia Manante, IOM Officer.
Right now as you read this, traffickers are selling migrant men and women in make-shift ‘slave markets’ in Libya. Unbelievably, these modern day slave markets are thriving as much of the world remains oblivious to the shocking reality. However, stories from those that escape are beginning to emerge.
Today on World Refugee Day, watch our video to find out how migrants and refugees end up sold in Libya’s slave markets.
Known as the ‘Gateway to Europe’, Libya has become a transit point for thousands of migrants and refugees desperate to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in search of a better life. But many don’t make it that far. Instead, smugglers offering to take them to the coast are selling them to the highest bidder.
“They took people and put them in the street, under a sign that said ‘for sale’”Shamsuddin Jibril, from Cameroon.
First hand witnesses report men and women are sold on the street for between $200 and $500 each. Once bought, they are held for ransom in mass prisons and detention centres, often run by militias, or used as forced labor and for sexual exploitation. Conditions are extreme, with hundreds crammed into filthy rooms, with inadequate space, food or hygiene facilities.
Watch our video to learn more and then sign to call for action against slavery in Libya.
Survivors have spoken of the methods used by slave masters to extract ransoms from relatives, including beating and torturing their captives while on the phone to their families. “People were tied up like goats, beaten with broom handles and pipes every blessed day, to get the money,” said Isoomah, from Liberia.
Those that do escape are often severely malnourished and bearing the wounds of torture. Not all survive, death and murder are a reality for those who can’t pay: the IOM have reported mass graves in the deserts of Libya.
Right now, traffickers are able to exploit the complete lack of governance in Libya and use migrant and refugees’ desperation to profit. With no authority upholding the law and militias unhindered to exploit, there is currently no protection available.
Besides efforts to try and save lives at sea, nothing is being done to bring an end to the horrors of Libyan slave markets, and stop those rescued off the Libyan coast from being returned to detention centers to face enslavement.
Can you add your name to strengthen our voice calling for meaningful action to close the Libyan slave markets?
Zoe, Joanna, Miriam and the Freedom United Team
P.S. To continue our work campaigning against atrocities such as the Libyan slave markets, we need your help. Will you chip in and donate?