CNN published an article dedicated to slave trade in Libya after the overthrowing of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
Each year, tens of thousands of refugees move through Libya to the coast of the Mediterranean, either fleeing conflict or seeking better opportunities in Europe. According to CNN, crossing the borders now is difficult due to Libyan authorities clamping down on the smugglers. Less and less boats make it out out to sea, boats full of people who more often than not had spent all of their money to finance their escape attempt. With no money to their name, the migrants and refugees become slaves, and the smugglers become their masters, selling people in auctions .
CNN covertly filmed one such auction outside the capital of Tripoli last month, witnessing a dozen of people go “under the hammer” in the space of six or seven minutes. This video evidence has now been handed over to the Libyan authorities, who have promised to launch an investigation. First Lieutenant Naser Hazam of the government’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency in Tripoli told CNN that although he had not witnessed a slave auction, he acknowledged that organized gangs are operating smuggling rings in the country. “They fill a boat with 100 people, those people may or may not make it,” Hazam says. “[The smuggler] does not care as long as he gets the money, and the migrant may get to Europe or die at sea.”
CNN interviewed Anes Alazabi, a supervisor at a detention center in Tripoli for migrants that are due to be deported. He says he’s heard “a lot of stories” about the abuse carried out by smugglers.
“I’m suffering for them. What I have seen here daily, believe me, it makes me feel pain for them,” he says. “Every day I can hear a new story from people. You have to listen to all of them. It’s their right to deliver their voices.”
One of the detained migrants, a young man named Victory, says he was sold at a slave auction. Tired of the rampant corruption in Nigeria’s Edo state, the 21-year-old fled home and spent a year and four months — and his life savings — trying to reach Europe. He made it as far as Libya, where he says he and other would-be migrants were held in grim living conditions, deprived of food, abused and mistreated by their captors. When his funds ran out, Victory was sold as a day laborer by his smugglers, who told him that the profit made from the transactions would serve to reduce his debt. But after weeks of being forced to work, Victory was told the money he’d been bought for wasn’t enough. He was returned to his smugglers, only to be re-sold several more times. The smugglers also demanded ransom payments from Victory’s family before eventually releasing him.
“I spent a million-plus [Nigerian naira, or $2,780],” he tells CNN from the detention center, where he is waiting to be sent back to Nigeria. “My mother even went to a couple villages, borrowing money from different couriers to save my life.”
Many migrants have relinquished their dreams of ever reaching European shores. This year, more than 8,800 individuals have opted to voluntarily return home on repatriation flights organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
While many of his friends from Nigeria have made it to Europe, Victory is resigned to returning home empty-handed. “I could not make it, but I thank God for the life of those that make it,” he says. “I’m not happy. I go back and start back from square one. It’s very painful. Very painful.”