Videos of torture in Libya sent to refugee family members by human traffickers demanding ransom

Belgian media showed images of Sudanese refugees held captive and tortured in Libya, showing the reality of torture for ransom in the country. These articles explain how migrants and refugees in North Africa are promised safe passage to Europe by smugglers, but often their journey ends in the hands of human traffickers in Libya. Here they are imprisoned and tortured while their families back home receive the images, together with ransom demands. Research has indicated the involvement of the Eritrean and Sudanese regime in human trafficking.   

Belgian journalists Rudi Vranckx and Mahmoud Elsobky from VRT got in touch with many refugees who were victims of human trafficking for ransom. A group of Sudanese people the journalists spoke to said that they were held captive in Libya by an unofficial and unknown militia operating in the country. They were tortured and videos of this were sent to their families in Sudan with the demand for ransom. For example Abu Bakr, a Sudanese national who obtained asylum status in France, saw the video of the torture of both his cousins which had been sent to him via the messenger application WhatsApp. Even the two Belgian journalist received videos sent to them by human traffickers. It illustrates how new technologies and digital devices have created a new form of human trafficking.

Belgian newspaper The Standaard interviewed EEPA-director Prof. Mirjam van Reisen co-editor of Human trafficking and trauma in the digital era, a -book which investigates in detail the practice of human trafficking for ransom. Prof. Van Reisen explained how the network of contacts and relatives of a victim plays a key role in amount of money demanded as ransom; the more (foreign) contacts, the higher the ransom (up to 10.000 USD or more). Amnesty International policy coordinator Eva Berghmans stated that “the European Union is complicit in the torture of Sudanese migrants in Libya [..] These horrific practices […] have already documented in many Amnesty reports. Despite our reports, the European Union still maintains the material, technical and logistical support to the ‘failed state’ Libya, and to the Libyan coast guard”.