The Elders condemn Libya slave auctions, demand migrants’ rights respected

October 2017 – CNN record the live auction of human beings as slaves, which it broadcast on 17 November 2017. The reporter, Elbargir, was clearly traumatised by what she had witnessed.

“Big strong boys for farm work” the seller calls out, one of several bi-monthly auctions in which captured migrants from Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Ghana and other Sub-Saharan African countries are sold off for at least US$400 each. 

The journalists of CNN, the news agency which President Trump wishes to restrict – if not close down – showed remarkable courage in investigating what were, until recently, rumours of a 21st Century African slave trade. Now they have the evidence and have passed it onto the Libyan authorities.

The European Union cannot escape responsibility for what is happening. The EU is paying Libya and other African countries big bucks to detain migrants hoping to escape war and destitution by reaching Europe. CNN visited Treeq Alsika Migrant Detention Center where refugees are held awaiting deportation to their country of origin. The scenes are heart-breaking and sickening. One man, ‘Victory’, was a former slave who relates stories of brutality, inhumanity and a cruelty that we thought would never happen again. 

Locations of Slave Auctions throughout Libya

It is a reminder of the commentary of Desmond Tutu: “We learn from history that we don’t learn from history”. And a stark reminder that democracy and freedom must never be taken for granted and we must be, ever, and forever, vigilant and attentive in defence of our common humanity.

Elbargir’s concluding commentary inform viewers that CNN have passed on the evidence they have gathered to the Libyan authorities, “So that scenes like this are returned to the past.”

You can view the CNN report by clicking here.

Slave auction secretly filmed by CNN

In an article headed ‘INHUMANITY’, responding to the CNN report, and published in La Croix (22 November 2017), journalist, Guillaume Goubert wrote:

“Africa has long stayed very quiet about the fate of its people but is now finally starting to make its voice heard.

The European Union also needs to face up to its responsibilities. It has provided support to Libya to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.

While this avoids the risk of their drowning, it also exposes them to terrible violence. Europe evidently has a right to regulate migration flows but not at the price of such inhumanity.
It will be necessary to deal with people’s efforts to migrate from their countries of origin.

Most of all, however, we need to invest in Africa’s development.”

How right Goubert is and a major reason why the world must get behind the building of Africa’s Great Green Wall.

You may read the full La Croix article by clicking here. 

Below we publish a Press Release, dated 21 November 2017, issued by the Elders, of which our own Mary Robinson is a member.  

LONDON, 21 November 2017

The Elders today strongly condemned “slave auctions” of African migrants in Libya and urged the international community to take all necessary steps to protect the rights and dignity of all people, especially vulnerable foreigners, in the conflict-wracked country.

They shared the concern and dismay expressed by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and called for an immediate end to these practices and other criminal acts of human trafficking. Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders, said:

Gathering of The Elders

“I am shocked and angered by the recent media reports of African migrants being sold as slaves in Libyan auctions. The Libyan authorities must take urgent steps to eradicate these abuses, and the international community must provide necessary political and logistical support to bring criminals to justice.”

The Elders reiterated their call for increased legal pathways for migration so displaced people do not have to rely on smugglers and organised crime networks.

Hina Jilani, Elder and human rights advocate, added:

“The slave auctions in Libya are a horrifying symptom of the failure both to agree international response mechanisms to large flows of people, and to ensure that the human rights of all people on the move are protected. The European Union and its member states, which have struck deals seeking to prevent refugees and migrants from crossing the Mediterranean, must insist Libya ends these abuses, which constitute an attack on the common values of our shared humanity.”


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About The Elders The Elders are independent leaders using their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007.

The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan (Chair), Ban Ki-moon, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland (Deputy Chair), Hina Jilani, Ricardo Lagos, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Ernesto Zedillo. Ela Bhatt, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are Elders Emeritus.

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