Libya: Slave market where lives are auctioned for as low as $400
- TR McCOY
- 3 weeks ago
Libya is awash with tears for the tens of thousands of migrants from across Africa and beyond who have traveled there in search of a better life.
This time-honored practice began last century, when workers from the Middle East and Africa flocked to Libya for jobs in its booming petro-economy — a pattern that continues even now, despite Libya’s dismal security climate.
That practice has become conflated with the global trend of migrants from poor lands seeking jobs in developed countries — especially Europe, a continent that will require millions of new health care workers to serve its increasingly elderly populations.
“Eight hundred,” says the auctioneer. “900 … 1,000 … 1,100 …” Sold. For 1,200 Libyan dinars — the equivalent of $800.
Not a used car, a piece of land, or an item of furniture. Not “merchandise” at all, but two human beings.
One of the unidentified men being sold in the grainy cell phone video obtained by CNN is Nigerian. He appears to be in his twenties and is wearing a pale shirt and sweatpants.
He has been offered up for sale as one of a group of “big strong boys for farm work,” according to the auctioneer, who remains off camera. Only his hand — resting proprietorially on the man’s shoulder — is visible in the brief clip.
After seeing footage of this slave auction, CNN worked to verify its authenticity and traveled to Libya to investigate further.
Carrying concealed cameras into a property outside the capital of Tripoli last month, we witness a dozen people go “under the hammer” in the space of six or seven minutes.
“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” the salesman, dressed in camouflage gear, says. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”
Buyers raise their hands as the price rises, “500, 550, 600, 650 …” Within minutes it is all over and the men, utterly resigned to their fate, are being handed over to their new “masters.”
Libya’s emergence as a migration choke point is a symptom of this labor demand, but not its cause. Nonetheless, with insecurity all around, the age-old trade in smuggling people to Europe has become turbo-charged — and has turned into a machine of exploitation and profit, impacting thousands of migrants as well as Libyan citizens.