It’s 2017, and shocking footage has emerged of Libyans being sold at auction at open-air slave markets. Tens of thousands of vulnerable African migrants and refugees risk everything to get to Libya’s coast and then across the Mediterranean into Europe – which is described as the deadliest route on Earth. According to reports, the migrants that end up in business detention centres are sold off like goods.
“As shocking as it seems, it’s indeed true,” Leonard Doyle from the International Organization for Migration tells Counting the Cost. “The reason it [slave trade] can happen is because there is really no rule of law across much of Libya. Libya is a country as big as France, with a lot of space there. Migrants are coming there … they see the promise of a new life when they go to their Facebook feed and they think something wonderful is waiting for them in Europe, because a smuggler has abused the system and has sold them that lie.”
He explains that when they arrive in Libya, “they get off the bus and they are quickly put into a kind of murder machine, an extortion machine. They are robbed of their possessions, their families are called. They are forced, they are tortured, they give them money. And then they are sold. Unbelievable, but they are sold in open, public auctions: $400 for a labouring man, maybe a bit more for a woman who can be put in the sex trade. And this is what’s happening across the country.” Doyle stresses that this issue shows that the international community should pay more attention to post-Gaddafi Libya.