By Israel Ebije
Activities of slave merchants trading off migrants stuck in Libya have earned the country a reputation once an exclusive preserve of countries like Italy, France, Portugal, Britain and Spain, which shipped Blacks from Africa in 1492 to work in farms as slaves. While it was marginally understandable for the Whites to subject Blacks to slavery based on the repugnant concept of racial superiority, the Libya notoriety is abysmal, condemnable and bereft of explanations. Their victims are sold for as low as $400 to a lifetime of hard labor.
Libya has an estimated one million migrants locked up in various dungeons across the country. They are funded and equipped by European Union and Italy, to stop the migrants from crossing the precarious Atlantic ocean where an estimated 5,000 refugees have died in recent years. The administrative willpower of the Libyan government is put to question amidst accusations of complicity in the heinous slave-trading. The quest to get free labor to make extra money from migrants has made the slave market lucrative, with cartels expanding in the bestial trade on daily bases.
The quest for greener pastures has always been the driving force behind migration of Africans to largely hostile territories. In recent times, the fear of terrorist activities has worsened the economic downturn in many African countries like Somalia and Sudan, while the Boko Haram menace ravages parts of northern Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. Other countries known to migrate through the channel include Ghana, Zambia, Senegal and Gambia. Unknown to most migrants who are often deceived by so called travel agents, the countries of their dreams are very hostile, just as their transit terrains in parts of Africa. The unyielding sea, the unforgiving desert all add up to bring death to migrants often running from less difficult challenges in their African home bases.
Slavery is not the lowest point of the migration tragedy in Libya, but the level of killings and prostitution that characterise daily living in Tripoli and its environs is escalating and quite disheartening. Most of the traffickers have offices located in parts of West Africa. Agadez and Zinder are notorious havens for the syndicate who often promise their victims better fortunes in Europe. Slave traders collect $750 to $1500 to cargo humans across the treacherous desert to Sabha, near Libya – where most migrants begin a journey of torture, horror and death.
It is curious to note that Libya has joined other slave markets of the modern world. India tops the list of notorious countries engaged in legal slavery with an estimated slave population of 14.3 million people. Other countries include China, with 3.2 million, Pakistan, with 2.1 million and Uzbekistan, with 1.2 million estimated modern slaves. With the exception of the medieval kind of slavery in Libya characterised by torture, prostitution and murder, the aforementioned countries have people working to keep food in their stomachs in the harshest conceivable conditions for a human.
What many migrants miss out in their travel plans is the risk factor. While some will be overtly desperate to exit their deplorable life in their home countries, many are only told of the George Orwell “sugar-candy mountain”, which often turns out to be their El-Dorado of none existent treasures. President Muhammadu Buhari has joined other leaders of the world to condemn the bestiality against African migrants in Libya, which is the right thing to do, but it is a very short-term measure. A long term plan is needed to end Nigerians’ desperate quest to migrate to Europe.
It is important for governments in affected countries to educate their citizens through all possible media outlets of the evil involved in illegal migration. The most bizarre revelation from victims fortunate to return after their ordeal is the fact that fellow Nigerians and other fellow African country men and women are involved in the trade.
Those who experienced the horrible slave business, aside losing their integrity, sometimes came back without their limbs, vital organs and personal possessions. Most will never recover, as some are already inching towards their graves on account of permanent medical impairment.
Reasons for migration in Africa are associated with bad governance; corruption, poor administrative policies, poverty, insecurity, unemployment, absence of social amenities, poor healthcare and dilapidated infrastructure, just to mention a few. If leaders in African countries are patriotic, avoid self seeking agenda, resources will definitely be used to improve the wellbeing of ordinary citizens.
In Nigeria, politicians who account for only a fragment of the entire population are super rich, while the larger population struggles to eat. The migration debacle will continue if there are no green pastures in home countries of desperate Africans. It is, therefore, necessary to assert that dearth of leadership is to blame for the Libya slave market.
For the aggrieved world, words of discontent alone may only amount to hoopla, and not necessarily end the slavery, except sanctions are deployed to stimulate positive action. Ghadhafi’s exit after forty years in power in Libya has left the country without a true leader. Libya is sadly a failed state.
Miscreants have become the law and the government, which has its tail between its legs, is only capable of barking like a sick puppy. The world must fix Libya to contain the menace of savagery fast become a way of life among its crime syndicate.
Ebije writes via [email protected]