Outraged has been sparked after footage surfaced, showing African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya. The men are smuggled in with hopes of starting a new life, only to be betrayed by the people smuggling them in.
In the video released by CNN, you can both hear and see a slave auction taking place, as young men from Niger and other sub-Saharan countries are bought to be farm workers for about $400 (£300) a piece.
The African Union (AU) President Alpha Conde of Guinea is calling for protections over the “despicable” trade “from another era”.
Conde said, “These modern slavery practices must end and the African Union will use all the tools at its disposal,” Mr Conde said.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been working to gather information on the illegal slave auctions. IOM’s Chief of Mission for Libya Othman Belbeisi believes that the migrants are being priced and sold based on their abilities.
“Apparently they don’t have money and their families cannot pay the ransom, so they are being sold to get at least a minimum benefit from that,” he continued, “The price is definitely different depending on your qualifications, for example if you can do painting or tiles or some specialised work then the price gets higher.”
Tens of thousands of migrants, many of them from West Africa but also Bangladesh, Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea, are being held in camps and warehouses on the Libyan coast, hoping to reach Europe.
When the warehouses become overcrowded, or if migrants are unable to pay traffickers for the boat journey towards Italy – where many are rescued by NGO-operated vessels – they are sold.
The existence of modern-day slave markets has been known for months, with testimony from the International Organisation for Migration and other humanitarian agencies, but last week CNN obtained video footage of one such auction.
In scenes reminiscent of the 19th century, when the slave trade was rife, auctioneers advertised a group of West African migrants as “big strong boys for farm work.” The auctioneers referred to the migrants in Arabic as “merchandise”.