The evil of slavery was dealt a deadly blow in the 19th Century and tagged a crime against humanity. Unfortunately, it has been resuscitated and kept alive by shameless, satanic human traffickers. Through their serpentine deception, they lure young West African men and women into embarking on deadly migration to Europe through the Sahara Desert, in search of a mirage called a better life that ends in disasters and inhuman treatments in Libya.
An investigative report by the Cable News Network (CNN) exposed the shocking auction of black Africans for an average of $400 (N150,000.00) each in Libya. These black Africans are sold at black spots in various towns which are not under the control of the Libyan Government of National Accord, GNA. The migrants are trapped in Libya, arrested and exploited by the authorities, sold into slavery, forced to work on farms, warehouses or as sex slaves until they pay up imposed costs as ransom. Many who pursue their dreams of crossing the sea after passing through the shame and suffering in Libya are re-arrested as illegal migrants by either Italian or Libyan security officials and taken as prisoners.
Across the globe, there has been an outrage over the inhuman conditions that these illegal migrants are held in. As at yesterday, there were about 4,000 of them who claim to be Nigerians holed up at the Treeq Alsika Migrant Detention Center in Tripoli, and many more may still be held in prisons, farms and other locations where they are forced to sweat their way to freedom from slavery. On their part, the authorities in Libya have claimed that they are overwhelmed by the crisis because GNA is a fledging government, weighed down by Libya’s political crisis. GNA’s statement says, “We affirm again that the practical solution is to address the real reasons that drive people to leave their home countries, treat them and develop final solutions to them.”
This point was buttressed by Mohammed Bisher of the Libyan Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority, who told CNN that detention facilities were overwhelmed, calling on countries from which migrants travel to take more responsibility. He said, “Deportation is a logistical problem between the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the embassy representatives. We are ready to deport at any time…The countries these migrants came from did not take them back or contribute help for them inside Libya.”
Though the misguided Nigerians who are trapped in Libya are to blame for chasing shadows, their desperate, wretched and helpless condition in Libya is a shameful testimony to the misrule on the country. Over the years, the economy of Nigeria has so nose-dived that unemployment has ballooned beyond manageable proportions and Nigerian youths continue to eat the bread of frustration and hopelessness. They, therefore, yearn for the glitter of Europe and engage in desperate measures, including the deadly trip across the Sahara Desert to Libya.
Government must take the necessary steps to evacuate these Nigerians from the shame in Libya without delay. No stone should be left unturned in ensuring that this is done. On Wednesday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had a meeting with relevant agencies in the State House. The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking of Persons (NAPTIP), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Refugee Commission should be put to task to bring these migrants back to Nigeria. Most importantly the ‘powerful human trafficking network’ should be demystified and smashed by security agencies. As long as the network is alive and thriving, the shameful scenario in Libya will continue to play out and haunt the pride of this nation.
Also, it is vital for the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to mount a vigorous campaign against human trafficking and dissuade our youths from this dangerous and most often futile migration to imagined greener pastures. The shameful exposure of Nigerian and other African youths to slavery in other parts of the world should be brought to an end quickly.