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Wednesday, July 18, 2018 4:06 pm
Dec. 15, 2017

Refugees caught in the Libyan slave trade

by Arthi Thyagarajan, Sports Editor
In Africa, criminal gangs promising to help refugees flee safely to Europe are selling refugees into slavery in Libya. According to an Aljazeera article, hundreds of refugees are sold into slavery or killed each week. Migrants unable to pay their captors are killed or beaten.

A huge part of the problem is the fragile state of Libya's government. Ever since the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi collapsed, the country has descended into a civil war. As a result of this transition, the government splintered into decentralized factions of militias, tribes and gangs. With no one to enforce the law, smuggling, slave trade, sexual violence and homicide has become commonplace.

CNN recently released footage of men being sold for $400 as farm laborers at a nighttime auction. Some were sold for as low as $200. This recording sparked international outrage and global response from many nations who are now making an effort to address the situation and provide transportation for stranded migrants.
African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya. Courtesy of Afrika News
African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya.

Each year, an estimated 150,000 sub-Saharan African refugees travel through Libya and across the Mediterranean in hopes of making a new life in Europe. It is a treacherous journey; for four consecutive years, more than 3,000 migrants or refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

With resources and funds from Italy, the Libyan Coast Guard has recently been able to crack down on boats smuggling people into Europe. Still, almost "">400,000 to 1 million refugees are trapped in Libya facing detention by smugglers and other criminals.

The IOM described the conditions as horrific and inhumane. "Slave markets torment hundreds of young African men. There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value," Lenard Doyle, Director of Media and Communications for the IOM, told TIME Magazine.

Some countries have already taken initiative to tackle Libya's humanitarian crisis. According to The Guardian, African and European leaders convened at Ivory Coast, where they agreed to extend asylum to some 15,000 people stuck in Libya. The United Nations Security Council also established a task force to target and dismantle the trafficking networks.

Rwanda's foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, condemned human traffickers and also opened doors to 30,000 African migrants. "Given our own history … we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle," Mushikiwabo said.

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