The United Nations' International Organization of Migration (IOM) has announced that west African migrants have been traded in open slave markets in Libya, the country that's been torn by war and chaos ever since rebels backed by the United States were successful in ousting Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
As one of the major exit points for migrants trying to reach Europe, Libya sees countless individuals trying to make their way through the country while fleeing violence, poverty, and war for a better life. Those without any money or documentation often fall prey to human traffickers, and as a result, they end up in one of these slave markets.
IOM has alerted the international community that many local aid organizations are to blame for luring migrants.
According to a Senegalese migrant who gave testimony to IOM, migrant workers are taken to makeshift prisons after the sale. They are then forced to work for no pay and given meager meals. In some cases, their families are contacted and threatened for ransoms of 300,000 West African francs ($472).
When demands aren't met, slaves are sent to larger prisons and then killed once they have been there too long.
Speaking to reporters, Mohammed Abdiker, IOM's head of operation and emergencies, said that the situation couldn't be worse.
“The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for all too many migrants,” he said.
Recently, it was discovered that militia-run detentions in Libya where women and children were placed while trying to make the journey to Europe, are “living hellholes.” These vulnerable migrants are often sexually abused and beaten up while some are even coerced into prostitution and unpaid work. Like migrants being sold in open slave markets, these women and children are also held for ransom for months.
According to Afshan Khan, UNICEF's regional director, the “central Mediterranean from north Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women." Now, we also know that in 2017, it's also where people are being openly sold as slaves.
If there was any doubt that war isn't worth a dime, this report should be enough to set those doubts straight.
It's certainly not worth human lives.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters