Libya’s Growing Trade in Africa’s Refugees as Slaves

Warning! Some of the contents in this post may be disturbing to some.


As a rule of thumb, I hate people being mean to another person. I really struggle to fathom how people can butcher, rape, assault or heap violence on another life. For example, listening to the news of the former Bosnian Croat warlord Slobodan Praljak, killing himself by drinking poison after his lengthy prison sentence was upheld, brought back memories of my visit to Bosnia many years ago. I stayed in Dubrovnik and took a taxi ride to Bosnia. The taxi driver’s account of what happened was harrowing but more so was seeing the legacy of this brutal conflict.

Slobodan Praljak, pictured, drinking poison in court. He died later in hospital.

The remaining religious and ethnic divisions, the ruins from bullets and bomb blasts; and the way many are still trying to get over loss of loved ones. Wars may end, but its destructive remains rarely ever come to an end.

It continues to be a mystery to me why or how mankind can be so inhumane toward other human beings but what totally beats me is when such inhumanity can take place at a national level due to those in authority turning a blind eye or downright giving such actions the nod.

To this, I believe the Libyan government has questions to answer on the subject of slavery within its borders. The thing is that the trafficking story is not new. Libya has been a hub of illegal movement of people into Europe for some time. I can never forget the account of a Nigerian man in his late 20’s several years ago who made the epic journey to England by sea and by foot thanks to smugglers through Libya. I remember him talking about he and fellow black Africans were treated by the North Africans who saw them as inferior. I recall him suggesting that there was no racism in England. He said “Let me take you Libya and come and see for yourself!”

With the proliferation of social media and mobile technology, migrants are able to document and instantly share messages with loved ones they’ve left behind just as much as they can share harrowing accounts of brutality. Additionally, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Narciso Contreras has also helped shed further light on what is going on in Libya. Much of the talk surrounding Libya has been around it being a focal point for people trafficking into Europe. However, very little has been said (until now) about the burgeoning trade in people as slaves to work in agriculture, factories and as prostitutes. A recent CNN report broadcast a clip of black Africans being auctioned off (see clip below)

While this might bring back thoughts of the the 18th and 19th century Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, it is perhaps more reminiscent of its predecessor, the Arab Slave Trade which commenced around the 7th century and then until the 17th went for many more centuries. This should not be confused with the false notion of Muslims trading black people as slaves but rather, a cultural belief in the medieval Arab-Berber world about black people. Some would argue that such medieval ideas still persist today in 2017!!!

Now here we are today. Human beings are being auctioned and battered like cattle.  ISIL fighters are doing the same by trading in women as sex slaves in turn between each other. It is indeed true that history often repeats itself, but I just wonder and query, can we skip repeating this one instead? Is there not something we can do as an ‘international community’ to put an end to this once and for all? Is it not possible, to dismantle this trade route given the short and long term benefits of so doing? Yet despite all these harrowing news and images, I suspect there is no shortage of ‘customers’ for the people trafficker in Libya to sell and trade. Many would have though the vast ocean was the main danger they faced.

The African Union, you guessed it, that august organisation once led by a former leader of Libya, and the United Nations, must now act to end this evil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *