It’s 2017, and shocking footage has emerged of Libyans being sold at auction at open-air slave markets. Tens of thousands of vulnerable African migrants and refugees risk everything to get to Libya’s coast and then across the Mediterranean into Europe – which is described as the deadliest route on Earth. According to reports, the migrants that end up in business detention centers are sold off like goods.
“As shocking as it seems, it’s indeed true,” Leonard Doyle from the International Organization for Migration tells Counting the Cost. “The reason it [slave trade] can happen is that there is really no rule of law across much of Libya. Libya is a country as big as France, with a lot of space there. Migrants are coming there … they see the promise of a new life when they go to their Facebook feed and they think something wonderful is waiting for them in Europe because a smuggler has abused the system and has sold them that lie.”
He explains that when they arrive in Libya, “they get off the bus and they are quickly put into a kind of murder machine, an extortion machine. They are robbed of their possessions, their families are called. They are forced, they are tortured, they give them money. And then they are sold. Unbelievable, but they are sold in open, public auctions: $400 for a laboring man, maybe a bit more for a woman who can be put in the sex trade. And this is what’s happening across the country.” Doyle stresses that this issue shows that the international community should pay more attention to post-Gaddafi Libya.
“Modern-day slavery is widespread around the world and Libya is by no means unique. It’s happening in the developed countries of the world as well as the undeveloped countries. But what’s particularly shocking is that this is happening effectively in the open, where people can go to a farmhouse, place a bid and end up ‘owning’ a human being.”
This video is about how 21-year-old Victory, who fled Nigeria’s Edo state was sold at a slave auction. He talks about the dire living conditions, lack of food and abuse that he suffered at the hands of captors. “If you look at most of the people here, if you check your bodies, you see the marks. They are beaten, mutilated,” he says.