The government and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have repatriated more than 200 vulnerable citizens from Libya after the CNN disclosed the barbaric practice in the country.
The repatriation comes amid reports that African migrants, trying to make their way to Europe, are being sold as slaves in the North African country.
The CNN report of the barbaric practice prompted the authorities to launch a formal investigation into the slave auctions in the country.
IOM staff in Niger and Libya documented shocking events on North African migrant routes, which they have described as ‘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 (referred to as SC to protect his identity) who this week was returning to his home after being held captive for months.
According to SC’s testimony, while trying to travel north through the Sahara, he arrived in Agadez, Niger, where he was told he would have to pay 200,000 CFA (about USD 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.
The journey – over two days of travelling – through the desert was relatively smooth for this group. IOM has often heard from other migrants on this route who report seeing the remains of others abandoned by their drivers – and of trucks ransacked by bandits who siphon away their fuel.
SC’s fate was different. 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 SC 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 this week.
SC described being ‘bought’ and then being brought to his first ‘prison’, a private home where more than 100 migrants were held as hostages.
He said the kidnappers made the migrants call their families back home, and often suffered beatings while on the phone so that their family members could hear them being tortured. In order to be released from this first house, SC was asked to pay 300,000 CFA (about USD 480), which he couldn’t raise. He was then ‘bought’ by another Libyan, who brought him to a bigger house – where a new price was set for his release: 600,000 CFA (about USD 970), to be paid via Western Union or Money Gram to someone called ‘Alhadji Balde’, said to be in Ghana.
SC managed to get some money from his family via mobile phone and then agreed to work as an interpreter for the kidnappers, to avoid further beatings. He described dreadful sanitary conditions, and food offered only once per day. Some migrants who couldn’t pay were reportedly killed, or left to starve to death.