Migrants auctioned at slave markets in Libya

Photo credit: CNN.

TMP – 29/11/2017

A new CNN investigation has produced video evidence of migrants being sold as slaves at auctions in Libya.
In footage obtained by the news agency some months ago, several migrant men are offered for sale as one of a group of “big strong boys for farm work,” according to the auctioneer, who remains off camera.

In October, CNN reporters then travelled to Libya to verify the footage and used concealed cameras to film inside a property outside the capital of Tripoli, where a dozen migrants were sold off in a matter of minutes.

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” the salesman, dressed in camouflage gear, says in the video.
Buyers raise their hands as the price rises, “500, 550, 600, 650…” Within minutes it is over and the men, resigned to their fate, are handed over to their new “masters.”

After the auction, the reporters attempted to interview two of the men who had been sold but they were so traumatized by what they’d been through that they could not speak.

Each year, tens of thousands of African migrants make their way across Libya’s borders in a bid to reach Italy’s shores. Most have sold all their belongings to pay the fees charged by smugglers to bring them across Libya and the Mediterranean.
But a recent clampdown by the Libyan coastguard means fewer boats are making it out to sea and reaching Europe, leaving the smugglers with mounting numbers of migrants on their hands. Many are profiteering from the excess of migrants by selling them at auctions or, in the case of female migrants, trafficking them into the sex trade.

First Lieutenant Naser Hazam of the Libyan government’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency said that although he had not witnessed a slave auction, he acknowledged that organized gangs are operating smuggling rings in the country.
“They fill a boat with 100 people, those people may or may not make it,” Hazam said. “(The smuggler) does not care as long as he gets the money, and the migrant may get to Europe or die at sea.”

There have also been reports of male rape of migrants held in detention centres in Libya, with The Guardian newspaper recently publishing an expose on instances of male rape.

In several cases, witnesses say prisoners were ordered to rape specific victims under the threat of death at the hands of the guards.
One man, Ahmed, told investigators he was detained for four years in a prison with 450 other men in Tomina, on the outskirts of Misrata. “They separate you to subjugate you,” he said. “So that you never hold your head up again. And they were filming everything with their phones.”
“There was a black man, a migrant. In the evening, they threw him into one of our cells: ‘You rape this guy, otherwise, you’re dead!’” Ahmed said.

Libyan authorities have said they have launched a formal investigation into the alleged slave auctions.
“A high-level committee has been convened encompassing representatives from all the security apparatus to oversee this investigation,” Anes Alazabi, an official with the Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency, told CNN.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM welcomed the investigation. “We definitely welcome the news for any investigation and we hope that this will cover not only this case but definitely all the cases of abuse and violence against migrants in Libya,” Othman Belbeisi, IOM chief of mission for Libya said.