Black Africans are being bought and sold in slave markets in Libya.
Reports form the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration say migrants from West Africa are being held in private prisons in Libya if they are unable to pay the smugglers who arrange their passage to Europe.
West African migrants interviewed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have recounted being bought and sold in garages and car parks in the southern city of Sabha, one of Libya’s main migrant smuggling hubs.
Migrants are traded for between $200 and $500 and are held on average for two or three months, Othman Belbeisi, head of the IOM’s Libya mission, told journalists in Geneva.
“Migrants are being sold in the market as a commodity,” he said. “Selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger and stronger.”
Migrants from Gambia, Senegal and Nigeria are set upon by armed groups and captured as they travel to Libya’s Mediterranean coast. They are held for ransom and forced to work without pay, or sold as slaves. The new owner may demand a new ransom or leave the captives to starve.
“What we know is that migrants who fall into the hands of smugglers face systematic malnutrition, sexual abuse and even murder,” Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, said in a statement. “We are hearing about mass graves in the desert.”