12/Apr/2017 // 1573 Viewers
PARIS, APRIL 12, 2017: (DGW) The United Nations (UN) revealed yesterday that hundreds of migrants from the Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal and other West African countries passing through Libya enroute Europe are being bought and sold in what it described as modern-day slave markets before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.
This is coming less than two weeks after it was announced that about 128 Nigerians were drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.
UN migration agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said West African migrants who survived the barbaric system recounted how they were traded in garages and car parks in the southern city of Sabha, one of Libya’s main people-smuggling hubs.
The agency stated that those it interviewed disclosed that helpless migrants are purchased for between $200 and $500 and are held on average for two or three months.
Head of the IOM’s Libya mission, Othman Belbeisi, who spoke in Geneva said migrants with skills like painting or tiling would fetch higher prices.
“Migrants are being sold in the market as a commodity. Selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger and stronger”, Belbeisi noted.
The refugees and migrants, mostly from Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia, are captured as they head north towards Libya’s mediterranean coast where some try to catch boats for Italy.
Along the way, they fall prey to an array of armed groups and people-smuggling networks that often try to extort extra money in exchange for allowing them to continue.
Most of them are used as day labourers in construction or agriculture. Some are paid while others are forced to work without getting any money.
The UN migration agency said, “Over the past few days, I have discussed these stories with several who told me horrible stories.
They all confirmed the risks of been sold as slaves in squares or garages in Sabha, either by their drivers or by locals who recruit the migrants for daily jobs in town, often in construction, and later, instead of paying them, sell their victims to new buyers.
“Some migrants- mostly Nigerians, Ghanaians and Gambians – are forced to work for the kidnappers/slave traders as guards in the ransom houses or in the ‘market’ itself.”
The IOM said it had spoken to one Senegalese migrant who was held in a Libyan’s private house in Sabha with about 100 others who were beaten as they called their families to ask for money for their captors. He was then bought by another Libyan, who set a new price for his release.
Noting that some of those who cannot pay their captors are reportedly killed or left to starve to death, the IOM said when migrants die or are released, others are purchased to replace them.
Experts said except something very drastic is done, the disturbing trend has by implication re-opened the sad memory of Africa’s horrendous past, where an estimated 18 million, mostly Africans, were transported to Europe and America for slavery and other forms of servitudes, a situation analysts regularly allude to, to explain the retrogressive position African continent found itself today.
Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the crossing in each of the past three years.
So far this year, an estimated 26,886 migrants have crossed to Italy, over 7,000 more than during the same period in 2016.
Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed action ousted the charismatic Libyan strongman, Muammar Gaddafi.
When contacted yesterday evening, the presidency said that its hands were tight on who to report to in Libya because that country is in chaos.
Senior special assistant to the president on Diaspora matters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa said, “Because Libya is itself in chaos, who do you report to? We keep advising our citizens while evacuating those trapped”