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Mostly Nigerians, other African migrants now on sale in Libyan ‘slave markets’—UN agency

A trend capable of returning African continent back to the Stone Age is playing out in Libya at a place called slave market where African migrants wishing to cross Mediterranean Sea for greener pastures in Europe are sold into slavery.

Already, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has raised alarm on Wednesday from observations made by its staff in Niger and Libya following week long documentation of shocking testimonies of trafficking victims from several African nations, including Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia.

The report distributed by African Press organization (APO) on behalf of United Nations (UN) said hundreds of migrants along North African migrant routes are being bought and sold openly in modern day ‘slave markets’ in Libya, survivors have told the United Nations migration agency, IOM.

They described ‘slave markets’ tormenting hundreds of young African men bound for Libya.

Operations Officers with IOM’s office in Niger reported on the rescue of a Senegalese migrant who this week was returning to his home after being held captive for months. According to the young man’s testimony, while trying to travel north through the Sahara, he arrived in Agadez, Niger, where he was told he would have to pay about $320 to continue north, towards Libya. A trafficker provided him with accommodation until the day of his departure, which was to be by pick-up truck.

When his pick-up reached Sabha in southwestern Libya, the driver insisted that he hadn’t been paid by the trafficker, and that he was transporting the migrants to a parking area where the young man witnessed a slave market taking place. “Sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans, with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for them,” IOM Niger staff reported.

Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s head of operation and emergencies said reports of slave markets can be added to a ‘long list of outrages’ in Libya, stressing that “What we know is that migrants who fall into the hands of smugglers face systematic malnutrition, sexual abuse and even murder. Last year we learned 14 migrants died in a single month in one of those locations, just from disease and malnutrition. We are hearing about mass graves in the desert.”

He said so far this year, the Libyan Coast Guard and others have found 171 bodies washed up on Mediterranean shores, from migrant voyages that foundered off shore. The Coast Guard has also rescued thousands more, he added.

“Migrants who go to Libya while trying to get to Europe, have no idea of the torture archipelago that awaits them just over the border,” said Leonard Doyle, chief IOM spokesman in Geneva. “There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value.

Many describe being sold “in squares or garages” by locals in the south-western Libyan town of Sabha, or by the drivers who trafficked them across the Sahara desert.

Mr. Doyle added: “To get the message out across Africa about the dangers, we are recording the testimonies of migrants who have suffered and are spreading them across social media and on local FM radio. Tragically, the most credible messengers are migrants returning home with IOM help. Too often they are broken, brutalized and have been abused, often sexually. Their voices carry more weight than anyone else’s.”

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