Africa’s slave trade thriving on sea of misery

Africa’s slave trade thriving on sea of misery, by Bel Trew.

The young Ghanaian migrant had already been robbed at gunpoint, left to die in the desert, kidnapped and tortured. Then he was sold into slavery.

From the moment that Abdul­aziz, 25, crossed Libya’s vast desert border from Niger in 2015, he was at the mercy of heavily armed traffickers and militiamen. His story became even more violent in the past 12 months, as Libya’s ­lucrative people-smuggling business morphed into a full-blown slave trade.

Hundreds of thousands of ­migrants, who like Abdulaziz travelled to Libya to make a living or to catch dinghies to Europe, are trapped in a hellish world where they are repeatedly bought and sold by rival gangs.

“I was a slave for one year in Qatrun,” said Abdulaziz, referring to a town in southwest Libya. …

Qatrun, on the main road ­between Niger, Chad and Libya, is a hub for trafficking. “First I was kidnapped by an armed group in Qatrun and beaten so badly my body is still covered in torture wounds. When I couldn’t pay the money they demanded, they sold me for 5000 dinars (about $900 on the black market),” he said. “The man who bought me had a business, so I became his slave ­labourer until after a year he felt sorry for me and let me go north.”

Abdulaziz had planned to stay in Libya and work but, fearing for his life, fled for Italy. He said that his dinghy, stuffed with 117 people, was stopped by the Libyan coastguard nearly 20km offshore, just short of international waters where they hoped to be rescued by a charity ship and taken to Italy. …

Africa, Muslims, slaves … the modern world fighting to get into old Europe:

Many smugglers realise they can make double the profits treating migrants like slaves rather than clients. …

In April, the International ­Organ­isation for Migration warned of “slave markets” developing in Sabha, a trafficking hub about 800km south of the capital. The UN agency said up to 100 ­migrants were being held in warehouses as hostages and beaten until their families paid up.

Months later, the slave trade appears to have spread across the country. More than a dozen ­migrants described being purchased multiple times by opportunist thugs, trafficking kingpins and many figures in between. They told of a haphazard world where migrants would be sold in small groups or moved around in packs of several hundred, either to be tortured for ransom to their families, or to work as labourers or sex slaves. …

She said women and girls who refused were gang-raped or tortured. One woman, aged 29, in the same detention centre in Tajoura on the outskirts of Tripoli, said she was twice gang-raped by eight men in Sabha. In another centre in Tripoli, two girls had allegedly been set on fire for being “troublemakers”. …

“The first group doused me with water and then gave me an electric shock to make the pain more intense. Sometimes they would come twice a day to hurt you, to get your family to pay.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil