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Sale of Migrants as Slaves in Libya Causes Outrage in Africa and Paris

The International Organization for Migration estimates that there are 700,000 to one million migrants in Libya, and more than 2,000 have died at sea this year.

Most of the migrants in Libya are fleeing armed conflict, persecution or severe economic hardship in sub-Saharan Africa. Their journey usually begins with a deadly trek through vast deserts to Libya and then involves either braving the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats headed to Europe or struggling to survive in one of the overcrowded detention centers run by smugglers on the Libyan coastline.

Forced labor, sexual abuse and torture are widespread in these camps, according to the United Nations.

Since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 ended the brutal rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya’s coast has became a hub for human trafficking and smuggling. That has fueled the illegal migration crisis that Europe has been scrambling to contain since 2014.

Libya, which slid into chaos and civil war after the revolt, is now divided among three main factions: a feeble but internationally backed government in Tripoli; an ultraconservative Islamist government, also in Tripoli; and an anti-Islamist government in the east.

The reactions on Saturday highlight one of the many challenges facing the internationally recognized authorities in Libya, which are still struggling to restore order, win popular support and restore basic services like water and electricity.

The CNN report, published on Wednesday, detailed the horrors that African migrants experience while trying to reach Europe in search of a better life. It included video footage of a slave auction last month outside Tripoli, where about a dozen migrants were sold as slaves in a matter of minutes. That auction was one of many, CNN said.

The network attributed the recent emergence of slave markets in Libya to the sharp fall in migrant arrivals in Europe over the summer. The Italian government reportedly began paying the warlords controlling Libya’s coast to curb the flow of migrants earlier this year. In August alone, the arrivals of migrants in Italy fell 85 percent.

This drop, CNN said, appears to have created a backlog of customers for Libya’s smugglers, who have responded by auctioning off migrants for as little as $ 400.

In his statement, Mr. Mahamat, of the African Union Commission, announced that the union would hold talks with Libya and other stakeholders in the region to find “practical steps” that would “address the plight of the African migrants in Libya.”

He vowed that the union would “spare no effort to help bring these acts to an end.”

Source: NYT > World

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