I recently did a piece on Robert Mugabe finally bowing down to years of pressure to stand down as the leader of Zimbabwe; I wasn’t scheduled to write another piece until the New Year. But, unfortunately as I am writing this piece there is a serious humanitarian crisis happening in Libya where people are being sold as slaves. Slavery in 2017? I know it’s a hard thing for a lot of us to get our head around, but it’s live, its happening and we need to put a stop to it immediately. It was widely believed that we are centuries removed from the slavery where Africans were displaced and sold to work in despicable conditions. However, the emergence of some truly horrific footage has shed light on an issue that didn’t just start in the last month, this is something that has been going on for years. Modern day slavery is alive.
On my social media feeds, I have seen truly harrowing pictures and videos that genuinely made my stomach turn. I saw the inhumane conditions, in which these people are kept and the disgusting ways in which they are treated. I saw a video recording of a group of men appearing to be sold at and auction for as little as $400, and this exploitation of migrants and refugees has become the norm in Libya. In one of the videos an auctioneer can be heard saying , “Does anybody need a digger? This a digger is a big strong man.” I feel very uncomfortable using the word auctioneer, but that’s exactly what was happening! Human beings were being treated and auctioned off like bespoke pieces of furniture. This flagrant disregard for human life is frankly sickening, and to see people being treated worse than animals is truly heart-breaking.
The scary reality is that this may be the tip of the iceberg of a much larger criminal trade where criminal gangs are found to be very lucrative. More and more immigrants are starting to see Libya as the portal to a better life, where they typically travel from West Africa all the way to Libya under the pretence that they will be transported to Europe for a better standard of living. Unfortunately, they receive the rudest of awakenings when they find out that they have been deceived by criminal gangs who expose them to the barbaric slave trade. Many lives have been lost during this transportation process, being in cramped conditions – and those who are brave enough to defy their captors are brutally executed to serve as a warning to anybody else who wants to challenge the criminals. Women are forced into prostitution, whilst men are forced into hard labour. These people have risked their lives in the pursuit of a better quality of living and unfortunately saw Libya as the conduit to this life.
I was curious to find out what the countries in the west had to say about this crisis?
French President Emmanuel Macron, announced a plan to launch “concrete military action” against the perpetrators. The difficulty for the nations in the west is the fact that this is happening in in the backdrop of a lawless post Gaddafi Libya. This means there isn’t one single person or group which can be held accountable. Different small factions occupy different regions in Libya, and the government is essentially helpless. Some have gone as far as to say that the west needs to work with Libya to institute a viable government as the failed state which we see today, is not able to effectively deal with this problem.
Personally I would suggest tougher border controls stopping people who want to travel to Europe from entering the country in the first place, but that adds credence to the point of Libya being lawless. Who is going to be held accountable to ensure that Libyan border control is tightened?
I’ve found this situation particularly harrowing because it’s sad to see that an industry which is associated with one of the darkest periods in history is still flourishing centuries after it was abolished. What can we do? Of course I am aware that many of us are far away from Libya, but we can definitely do our best to influence abolition and change. Perhaps signing petitions such as this one will go some way towards doing this. https://www.change.org/p/stop-migrants-becoming-slaves-in-libya-close-the-slave-markets
There is also a march taking place tomorrow at 12pm starting at Belgrave Square and marching to the Libyan embassy.
The march aims to protest against:
- The enslaving and selling of Black Africans in Libya
- The illegal detention of Black Africans in Libyan concentration camps
- The torture of Black Africans in Libya
- The raping of African women in Libya
- The extrajudicial killing of Black African children in Libya
Check out AfricanLivesMatter.Org for more information on tomorrow.
Let’s all make a change!