The Libyan crisis got to its alarming stage when in the summer of 2017; an emboldened Libyan coastguard made threats of violence to international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in search and rescue missions in the sea and in the deserts.
Then, an armed militia, west of Tripoli, backed by the Libyan authorities, who actually were financed or supported by Italian and EU authorities, started to intercept boats and prevent people fleeing to Italy.
That brought the fall back in migrants in Libya, where they were held in detention centres, many of which have been criticized by international observers as overcrowded, unsanitary places where migrants are exploited.
These centres reportedly turned to recruitment grounds for smuggling activity and processing centres for ransom extraction and slavery. An NGO, Refugees International, with its report that “In Libya the policeman is a smuggler, and the smuggler is a policeman”, corroborates this, and even another NGO, Médecins Sans Frontières, described life in Libya's concentration camps as “feeding the business of suffering”.
Though the business of smuggling, exploitation and now slavery provide important funds for different groups around Libya, being that there is huge profit, and they see migrants as another commodity to be exploited by the various armed groups vying to control parts of Libyan territory, the business has come to stay.
Though a far cry for solution, but the “transit and departure facility” in Tripoli may be providing opportunities for an end to the modern day slavery in Libya, as it now provides opportunity for people to escape from Libya and be resettled elsewhere - either the UNHCR facilities in other countries - or returned to their country of origin, even when only 10,500 places are available.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1951 for promoting humane and orderly migration to benefit all. It has nearly 9,000 returns already carried out in 2017; so the 10,500 places available are far below the number of places required.
Thus, smugglers selling off stranded migrants as slaves appear unthinkable but it is happening today. They are being sold as low as $400 which is equivalent to N144, 200 in Nigeria. What a shame! Not even children are sold at that rate in Nigeria and one would transport himself to Libya only to be sold as either sex slave or hard labour slave.
The British Government passed an Act of Parliament, abolishing the slave trade throughout the British Empire in 1807 and later in 1838, on what it called final abolition. But that alone did not end slavery. Till date, slavery is on but in a disguised approach and methodology despite all international campaigns against it.
In Libya, human beings are auctioned in Libyan Dinars. Europe and developed countries call these migrants' adventurous youths, while Africa, particularly Nigeria, call them desperate youths.
Whatever we accuse Europe about its paranoia about African migrants as being an enabler to the current Libyan slave market, we are faced with a worst case scenario behind our buildings, even if not the next door to us, by our Lebanese neighbours and other foreigners resident here with the complete complicity of our brothers and sisters.
When a pastor takes advantage of a chorister or a choir master does that, or a parent or a guardian, what is that? So many females are held captive amidst us as sex slaves. Many corporate organizations exposed some of their workers, especially marketers, to corporate sex enslavement to get a target set by the bank and other financial institutions.
So many sales girls are sex machines of their masters, same for so many house helps and by whatever name it goes. The Libyan experience is here with us but hidden from public glare in connivance with sometimes the abused who refuse to speak up.
But the hardship in the country makes it impossible for these abuses to come up, especially when the abuser is often stronger and financially buoyant to buy his way or her way out of the allegation or confirmed cases with the aid of law enforcement agents.
In Nigeria today, many children are trafficked at their tender age and later turned to sex machines or labour slaves for their meals. Even so, many fake marriages abound, thus making the Libyan saga a child's play for either the man or the woman. Yet we endure.
The newspapers and airwaves are filled with stories of so-called men of God raping underage members of their congregation and impregnating some.
Others go a step further by running baby factories where innocent and yet to be deflowered girls are brought and deflowered at a fee, get pregnant and sell the baby, depending on the sex, between N150, 000 and N500, 000.
Some of the foreigners, especially the Lebanese merchants and company bosses, have been accused of inhuman treatment to their Nigerian house helps of which many have accused them of raping them and others, apart from other sorts of inhuman treatment. Those working in their factories have seen hell on earth.
Some of our female bosses are also something else as their own enslavement of their house helps and drivers for mere suspicion that their husbands or sex partners looked amorously at them, as well as their young sex partners, is unthinkable.
Already, the EU, accused of labelling these youths and instigating the slavery market resurgence, particularly in Libya, is looking inwards for a solution to the migrant crisis enveloping Europe, while the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is already looking at launching a “concrete military action” against those patronizing slave trade.
The Nigerian Government whose citizens are mostly victims of these evil merchandize of heartless and conscienceless human traffickers only announced plans to repatriate its citizens stranded in Libya and elsewhere and nothing more.
Though the story of inhuman treatment to migrants, particularly abuses of migrants in Libya which had been trending, has dominated the airspace and topped the discuss at the summit of European and African leaders, and even got condemnations from UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
It is embarrassing and unthinkable in this 21st century.
This business has been in vogue without actions against perpetrators as confirmed by the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, who gave a total condemnation of the despicable acts which, he said, had been on for years.
----------------To be continued in next edition
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