The New African Slave Trade


In recent months, Libya has become a hotbed of modern slavery

A recent article by the Guardian has highlighted the outbreak of a very serious problem in Libya. Migrants from other African nations like Nigeria or Guinea are tricked by smugglers into coming to Libya under the false promise of jobs and opportunity in Europe. 

Female migrants are frequently sold into sex-slavery. The sex trade is so lucrative that women generally command a higher price than men, who are often used for forced labor. Migrants are treated with cruelty and are often held and tortured until their families can pay a ransom of hundreds.


Migrants from Africa face brutal violence from smugglers

These excerpts reveal how bad the cruelty can be:

“People were tied up like goats, beaten with broom handles and pipes every blessed day, to get the money,” said Isoomah, from Liberia. “If they do not do that, the money will not come.”

Some smugglers are even more notorious. Jibril told of a private house-turned-prison that migrants have nicknamed the house of debt: “Some of them, they cut their fingers off, or brand them with hot iron.” The luckier ones were bought as workers.


The causes of this problem are numerous

As with issues of this nature, there are a number of different factors that lead to the proliferation of slavery in Libya. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Poverty, climate change, and conflict in West African and Central African countries. When individuals are no longer able to feed their families, or families face the threat of violence, migration becomes a last resort effort to survive
  • The destabilization of Libya. While the Qaddafi regime was brutal, it has yet to be replaced with a reliable, trustworthy governing system. This has led to the rise of illegal activity, including slave traders.
  • The negative attitude among Western Countries towards refugees. Libya used to be more of a doorway into Europe. As many European nations have decreased their intake of refugees, this causes a swelling in Libya. Libya is also among the seven nations where the U.S. halted its resettlement program in wake of last year’s travel ban. The timing lines up with the intensification of the problem.

There are things you can do to help

  • Organizations like Plant With Purpose or Hope International help prevent migration by addressing its root causes. When you donate to these organizations, you ultimately stop people from making the dangerous journey.
  • The International Organization of Migration has been working persistently in Libya by working with Libyan authorities to end the use of detention centers which are the starting point for slavery and abuse. They're another effective organization to support.
  • Awareness can help redirect attitudes. While this crisis has seen a spike in recent attention, it is still largely unknown. A concentration of advocacy can influence the behavior of Western nations or the UN. Contact your government leaders, after all, they're perhaps your highest paid employees.
Philippe Lazaroblog, blog18