There are modern-day slave auctions in Libya that are selling African migrants for as little as $400, said an investigative report by CNN.
The network found conclusive evidence of two separate auctions held after dark at anonymous locations in Libya, the war-torn country that has become a hub for the current migrant crisis.
Grainy cell phone footage shows African men, many of them from Niger — but some also from Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Mali and Gambia — being sold in a slave market by human traffickers for just 600 Libyan dinar each — which is equivalent to just over $400.
Reporter Nima Elbagir said she witnessed one dozen men, who were referred to as “merchandize,” being sold off by a slaver dressed in camouflage gear, in just a few minutes. One of the videos shows a young Nigerian man being offered up for sale as part of a group of “big strong boys for farm work.”
The auctioneer reportedly said: “Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he'll dig. What am I bid, what am I bid?”
Another slave trader can be heard bidding for two African refugees, “800... 900... 1,000... 1,100..." before they are sold for 1,200 Libyan dinars ($875).
According to CNN, the victims were migrants from Africa hoping to flee to Europe at the mercy of smugglers. They also reported there were total of nine auctions taking part in different locations in Libya, but believe there are many more that take place every month.
The emergence of slave auctions in Libya can be attributed to the closure of borders of many European countries in the summer. In August alone, the influx of migrant in Italy fell by 85 percent, after the country began paying warlords controlling Libya’s coastlines to stop the flow of refugees. The blockade has created a surplus of migrants for Libya’s smugglers who have responded by selling them off for a few hundred dollars.
The video evidence was handed over to Libyan authorities, who said they will look into the incidents.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Metig said his U.N.-backed Government of National Accord would investigate these reports and said, if confirmed, all those involved in the slave trade would be punished.
First Lieutenant Naser Hazam of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency in Tripoli said although he had not seen an auction himself, he knew smuggling rings organized such activities in the country.
“They fill a boat with 100 people, those people may or may not make it,” Hazam said. “(The smuggler) does not care as long as he gets the money, and the migrant may get to Europe or die at sea.”
In the aftermath of the aired footage, around a thousand protesters demonstrated in front of the Libyan Embassy in central Paris during the weekend, carrying signs like “Put an end to the slavery and concentration camps in Libya,” and chanting, “Free our brothers!”
Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission and the foreign minister of Chad, issued a statement after the rally, in which he called the auctions “despicable” and urged the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to cooperate with the Libyan authorities with the investigation.
The International Organization for Migration believes there are approximately 700,000 to one million migrants in Libya and more than 2,000 of them have died at sea just this year. Most of the migrants are fleeing from persecution, severe economic hardships and war from the sub-Saharan regions. Their journey involves trekking through the deadly Libyan deserts and then braving the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats to reach the coasts of Europe — or end up at the overcrowded detention camps run by smugglers.
According to the United Nations, sexual abuse, forced labor and torture are rampant in these camps.
Since the Arab Spring started in 2011, Libya has become an epicenter for smuggling and human trafficking, which has further fueled the migrant crisis in Europe.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny