At least 250 Cameroonians returned home from Libya, days after media reports of migrants being traded as slaves in Libya sent shockwaves through sub-Saharan A Africa and angered the world.
The report showed footage of an auction of men offered to Libyan buyers as farmhands and sold for $400, a chilling echo of the trans-Saharan slave trade of centuries past.
Many of those who returned to Cameroon’s capital Yaounde included men, and children, who like many migrants end up in Libya, as they attempt the voyage across the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean Sea to European shores.
Libya is a country at war, despite the semblance of peace. A black person is seen as merchandise, he is sold like chicken. Migrants on their way to Libya are kidnapped.
Faced with poverty and unemployment, many left to seek a better life abroad, but have returned with dashed dreams, and harrowing tales of abuse, being captured by traffickers and traded like livestock by their captors.
“Libya is a country at war, despite the semblance of peace. A black person is seen as merchandise, he is sold like chicken. Migrants on their way to Libya are kidnapped. They are kidnapped when they are walking and sold for as little as 300 Libyan Dinars (216 USD),” said one returning migrant, Chancelier Deuda.
“Do not take the Libyan route, it’s not a good idea and you definitely won’t like what you will find. You will meet people who, I don’t even know how to qualify them, but those Arabs – and I am speaking from experience since I have in different parts of Maghreb region, but those Arabs are not people who should live on earth,” added another returning migrant Emile Monkam.
The migrant return was by the International Office of Migration (IOM), with each migrant given 117 USD to help them resettle to their villages.
Reports of abuses against African migrants also dominated a two-day Africa-Europe summit, as European Union leaders met their African Union counterparts in Ivory Coast this week.
On the last day of the summit, officials said that the EU, UN and AU agreed to an emergency plan to dismantle people-smuggling networks and repatriate stranded migrants in an effort to ease a human rights disaster in Libya.
Libya splintered along political, ideological and tribal lines during and after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that unseated former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Six years after Gaddafi’s fall, Libya is still a lawless state where armed groups compete for land and resources and people-smuggling networks operate with impunity.
Libya’s government, which has promised to investigate reports of slave auctions, agreed to grant U.N. agencies access to migrant camps in areas under its control, German officials said.
Some 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea from North Africa since 2014, most of them leaving from Libya’s western coast. More than 12,000 have died while trying.