Black Africans Sold in Libyan Slave Markets
Each year, thousands upon thousands of immigrants cross into Libya, fleeing domestic conflicts or seeking economic opportunity in Europe. Often, they are smuggled into the country on boats, hoping to pass through to the Mediterranean, but a recent crackdown by the Libyan coastguard has changed that. Now, fewer boats are making it to sea and smugglers find themselves with a backlog of desperate illegal immigrants, most of whom have sold everything but what they can carry to finance their journeys.
Little was known about what happened to these “surplus” immigrants, until now. Recently released footage by CNN appears to show young men from Niger and other sub-Saharan countries being auctioned off to buyers in open-air slave markets. This footage corroborates the International Organization for Migration (IOM) report released last April, which detailed interviews with rescued victims. Both men interviewed by IOM staffers were taken in by traffickers; one was smuggled into Libya before being taken captive, the other was kidnapped on his way there.
Libyan officials have denounced this modern-day slave trade, but say that Libya “is going through difficult times which affected its own citizens as well. It is, therefore, not fair to assume responsibility for the consequences of this immigration, which everyone unanimously agreed that addressing this phenomenon exceeds the national capacities.”
That Libya is “going through difficult times” is an understatement. The 2011 toppling of Muammar Gaddafi created a power vacuum that many Libyan politicians were eager to fill. With two rival parliaments and three governments, the country remains in turmoil so intense that it has given the Islamic State a foothold in the region—a foothold which only increases the domestic unrest.
In 2001, the Bush administration struck a deal with Gaddafi. Libya would cease its arms programs and the United States, in return, wouldn’t topple the Gaddafi regime. Then, in the early years of the Obama administration, then-secretary Hillary Clinton pushed President Obama to begin bombing the region. The Gaddafi regime was consequently toppled in 2012, the Libyan power-struggle between various United Nations-instituted governments, the Islamic State, and Libyan leaders began.
Now, the world is witnessing the consequences of deal-breaking and meddling with other governments. One can only hope that the Trump administration will bear this in mind as important decisions are made regarding the Khamenei regime in Iran.