In their attempt at searching for a better life in Europe, West African natives are often enslaved in Libya and thrown in “public, slave markets.” Often times, sub-Saharan migrants flock to Libya, as it serves as a port for ships headed north. It is here where they’re likely to fall prey to human trafficking—many are impoverished and possess no valid, identification papers.
[Video: courtesy of International Business Times]
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) met with some of those who’ve survived and learned Libya has many slave markets and privately owned jails where they keep slaves locked away for future sale. IOM Head of Operation & Emergencies Mohammed Abdiker said, “The situation is dire. The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for all too many migrants.”
A Senegalese survivor recalled his assailants abducted and bussed him through Niger and into southern Libya—Sabha. Before the Senegal man was to endure the ocean voyage to Europe, the middleman wasn’t paid—the survivor was simply sold on the slave market with others who were on the bus.
Once in Sahba, he was imprisoned and forced into servitude. More, his captors priced him at 300,000 West African Francs (nearly £380) but sold him to a bigger prison. Niger-based IOM Officer Livia Manante explained a lot of refugees are taken to a main area in the city and sold—not unlike a farmer’s market. “IOM Italy has confirmed that this story is similar to many stories reported by migrants and collected at landing points in southern Italy—including the slave market reports,” Manante said.
Many times, if there were no takers, remaining slaves were murdered off—some died of famine and disease—a very filthy environment.
“If the number of migrants goes down, because of death or someone is ransomed, the kidnappers just go to the market and buy one,” Manente added.
The average price for these refugees is anywhere from $200 (£160) and $500 (£400) per slave. The majority spend months in prison prior to either being released or purchased. In 2017 alone, 170 corpses have made their way to beaches along the Mediterranean—the Libyan Coast Guard is fortunately rescuing thousands of survivors.
To date, IOM has returned 1,500 to West Africa. The organization also strongly advises them and others to stay away from Libya. “Migrants who go to Libya while trying to get to Europe, have no idea of the torture archipelago that awaits them just over the border,” Geneva-based IOM Chief Spokesman Leonard Doyle said. “There, they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value.”