Libya’s migration crisis fueling slave trade

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have braved the journey across Africa to Libya and often attempted to cross over on to Europe. Libyan authorities have used mass indefinite detention as their primary migration management tool.

Migrant centres, packed with thousands of people seized on the trafficking routes that criss-cross Libya, have become renowned for forced labour, beatings, torture and rape.

Images of a slave auction led to urgent meetings and an emergency plan during the recent Africa-Europe summit.

In April, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) warned that its staff in Niger and Libya had “documented shocking events on North African migrant routes, which they described as ‘slave markets.’

Sub-Saharan Migrants Auctioned at Slave Markets in Libya [ Photo AFP]
Several urgent meetings were held involving the AU, EU, UN and the governments of Libya, France, Germany and others – to try to draft an appropriate response to the outrage. A three-point emergency plan was drawn up, starting with the creation of a joint task force of police and intelligence forces of AU and EU countries.

This task force is to dismantle the human trafficking networks responsible for the slavery, human rights abuses of migrants in Libya and their financing, and to arrest the traffickers.

French President Emmanuel Macron provoked considerable concern when he told French media that he was proposing “military action” against the traffickers.

He, however, explained that the idea was not to wage war in Libya, but to reinforce police action against the networks. Other French officials said because human trafficking was closely linked to arms and drugs, and terrorism in the Sahara and Sahel, greater military action against terrorists and traffickers along the smuggling routes would also impact human trafficking in Libya.

Red Crescent volunteers recover bodies washed ashore at the coast near Al Zawiya, Libya,

The second leg of the plan envisaged by the leaders in Abidjan was to launch an urgent operation in the next few days or weeks, to evacuate migrants from camps or detention centres in Libya and repatriate those who wanted to go home.

AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat says the first priority is to evacuate some 3,800 migrants, mostly women and children from West Africa, who were being held under inhumane conditions in a camp near Tripoli.

The Libyan government had told the AU there were 42 such camps or centres and probably more since 400,000 to 700,000 migrants were estimated to be in the country.

Faki announced, as a third leg of the anti-slavery action plan, the formation of an AU commission of inquiry into the root causes of the emigration from African countries to Europe.

Nigerian migrants return from Libya with tales of horror

The African Union has put in place a plan for the voluntary humanitarian evacuation of migrants in Libya hoping to repatriate at least 15000 migrants by the end of the year. This would be done in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration .