Migrants are sold for around 400 US dollars to the highest bidders in slave auctions taking place on Libyan soil, and now there is video documentation to prove it. On Friday 17th November 2017, an article was published by the American media network CNN, documenting this inhuman reality. This new evidence again puts in question the controversial strategies adopted by the European Union and its member states in dealing with Libya. An example of this is the deal signed last summer between Italy and the Libyan coast guard to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean sea and bringing them back to Libya. This agreement is the result of a ‘border managing policy’ which saw Europe put together an action plan of 46 million euro in order to help Italian and Libyan authorities, without taking into account the deep political and humanitarian crisis which is affecting the African country.
In the video by CNN, a short clip is shown dated August 2017 that CNN has been able to verify as authentic. In the clip, a man can be seen buying three men, or as the seller addresses them, three “big strong boys for farm work” for the value of 400 USD each. The video then shows how a CNN reporter and crew were able to document another ‘slave auction’ in an unspecified location in Libya; during the auction the traffickers and the interested buyers keep referring to migrants as ‘merchandise’. The crew continued its journey by visiting a detention camp, where other testimonies were collected about the Libyan slave markets. The evidence collected was delivered to Libyan authorities, who promised to launch an investigation.
An official statement from the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has been released on Saturday 18th November 2017. In the statement Mr. Faki Mahamat “calls for an immediate end to these (slave market) practices and other criminal acts of human trafficking” and “expresses the determination of the African Union to spare no effort to help bring these acts to an end and ensure the respect of the most basic human rights. [..] The Chairperson of the Commission also intends to quickly dispatch an envoy to Libya for consultations with the Government of Libya (Tripoli government) and other stakeholders, to agree on practical steps in support of efforts to address the plight of the African migrants in Libya”.
The situation in the detention centres in Libya also remains a cause for concern. UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, made an statement on 14th October to the UN Headquarter in Geneva: “The detention system for migrants in Libya is broken beyond repair [..] Only alternatives to detention can save migrants’ lives and physical security, preserve their dignity and protect them from further atrocities. The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, and pretend that the situation can be remedied only by improving conditions in detention”.
Concluding, Al-Hussein pointed the finger directly to the policy adopted by European Union institutions, adding: “the increasing interventions of the EU and its member states have done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants [..] Monitors were shocked by what they witnessed: thousands of emaciated and traumatised men, women and children piled on top of each other, locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic necessities, and stripped of their human dignity”.