Mohamed Nour Aoudou
Over the course of years following the collapse of the former Libyan regime and the lawlessness that ensued, hundreds of African refugees and migrants mainly from West Africa countries and others have been unlawfully detained and racially abused by various militia groups and war lords in the country. As we speak today, African refugees and migrants are being subjected to servitude and abuse in many parts of Libya. These abuses are systematic and widspread. Recently, people across the world have seen the shocking scenes of slavery in Libya, reminiscent of practices from centuries ago. According to the IOM, slave markets where African migrants are bought and sold in broad daylight have been thriving in many places throughout the country, including the capital Tripoli since Ap
ril 2017. In one of these markets a CNN reporter filmedLibyan auctioneers advertising a group of African refugees as “big strong boys for farm work.” The auctioneers described the African refugees in Libya as “merchandise”.
Today, statistics show that more than 700,000 Africans still exist in Libya in poorest conditions, subjected to appalling psychological and physical torture, racial discrimination and persecution. They simply have no rights and are treated as subhuman. Various competing armed groups are involved in these criminal activities. Militia fighters usually engage in bloody urban clashes over ownership of the Africans human “merchandise”. More tribal militias and outlaws have also joined the fray, trying to make profits from this outrageous business.
In Libyan cities such as Sabratha, west of Tripoli, African migrants were killed in crossfire and their bodies thrown in the streets. Others were shot dead as they attempted to escape away for their lives. Many more migrants are held against their will in various detention camps in other cities run by brutal belligerent groups. Female refugees have also been immensely victimized by Libyan warlords and criminal groups. Hundreds of women were raped and forced into prostitution.
We must all abhor and condemn these acts of savagery. They simply have no place in today’s world. We must not stay silent on these crimes. Silence makes us all complicit. These horrific violations against vulnerable refugees must be investigated without delay and perpetrators of these practises must be brought to justice.
Let’s all remember that African refugees in Libya are merely people escaping dictatorships, wars and natural catastrophes and lack of resources in their home countries. They are simply a group of young people who suffer from multiple problems, which are not of their own making. Such vulnerable persons deserve our sympathy and protection. They should not be left alone under the mercy of criminal gangs and warlords in Libya.
The international community, specially the African Union must take tough measures against Libya and ensure that its government must not condone or tolerate these crimes of selling, torture and humiliation of fellow human beings. African leaders should urgently establish an African mechanism to investigate and prosecute these crimes. African human rights organizations and activists, artists, civil society organizations, sport figures, etc are also invited to contribute in helping refugees and migrants in Libya. They should swiftly liaise with international human rights campaigners such as Human Right Watch, Amnsty International and others to bring about a global campaign of advocacy on the plight of Africans refugees in Libya.
The EU and other partners in the West and worldwide should coordinate efforts with AU countries to protect African refugees and restore their human dignity. The Libyan authorities must be pressuried to take concrete actions to immediately investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these heinous human rights abuses. The UN must also step up its efforts to fulfil its earlier pledges in tackling the grave abuses perpetrated against helpless persons in Libya