The United Nations migration agency has documented reports of slave markets and kidnapping rings on migrant routes in Libya run by traffickers to buy and sell West African migrants.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports gathered in the past week indicated that with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for traffickers, “sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans”.
Staff of IOM in Niger reported the testimony of a Senegalese migrant who was rescued after months under captivity, IOM said in a statement released on Tuesday.
After paying 200,000 CFA (about USD 320) in Agadez, Niger to be transported by a pick-up truck northwards towards Libya, the migrant ended up being sold by the driver of the truck after he (driver) insisted he was not paid.
He was taken to a private home where more than 100 migrants were held as hostages as the kidnappers made the migrants call their families back home, and often suffered beatings while on the phone so that their family members could hear them being tortured.
“He was taken to a private home where more than 100 migrants were held as hostages as the kidnappers made the migrants call their families back home, and often suffered beatings while on the phone so that their family members could hear them being tortured,” the report said.
The migrant could not pay the 300,000 CFA (about USD 480) for his freedom which led to his sale to “another Libyan, who brought him to a bigger house – where a new price was set for his release: 600,000 CFA (about USD 970), to be paid via Western Union or Money Gram to someone called ‘Alhadji Balde’, said to be in Ghana”.
The unnamed migrant was freed after his family raised the money and paid via mobile phone, the report said.
He however explained that those who couldn’t pay were killed or left to starved to death and then replaced immediately with new “slaves” bought from the market.“Women, too, were ‘bought’ by private individuals – Libyans, according to this witness – and brought to homes where they were forced to be sex slaves,” it added.
There were two other almost similar accounts suffered by a Gambian man and a Somali woman who is still in captivity despite payment being made.
“They all confirmed the risks of being 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,” an IOM worker said.
“Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages … Last year we learned 14 migrants died in a single month in one of those locations, just from disease and malnutrition. We are hearing about mass graves in the desert,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operation and Emergencies.