Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

The migrant slave trade is booming in Libya. Why is the world ignoring it?

Ross Kemp with migrants back in port

It’s a mass grave that we don’t need the United Nations to verify. Every day an average of 14 migrants, the vast majority from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, die crossing the Mediterranean.

Many more see their European dream turn into a nightmare long before they’re corralled on to flimsy rubber dinghies on Libya’s beaches. They’re the victims of a silent massacre in the Sahara desert – a journey more deadly than the crossing from the coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Come the spring, thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing poverty and violence will die in Libya, but I doubt you’ll hear much about it. Compassion fatigue has set in. The numbers have become too big to comprehend. It’s an old story; we feel numbed by the now familiar news images of men huddled together on boats. Maybe it’s because they’re African and have been written off as “undeserving economic migrants”. These are the people some of our political leaders have in mind when they talk of swarms, plagues and marauders. The understandable focus on Syrian refugees has taken the spotlight away from the more dangerous route to Europe through Libya.

Ross Kemp with migrants waiting to be picked up
 ‘What I saw there is nothing short of a modern-day slave trade.’ Photograph: Dave Williams/Sound Ltd

Or maybe it’s because, with three rival governments presiding over anarchy in Libya, and the real power lying in the hands of armed militias, getting inside the country to tell the story is just too difficult and dangerous. One thing is becoming clear – many people have come to see this tragic situation as though it were more a problem for us than for the migrants. We have stopped caring about them. As a documentary-maker, I believe it’s our job to make people care. That was the reason my team and I went to Libya – to try to shine a light on the under-reported plight of migrants away from the coastline and to tell the human stories of the men and women making the journey.

What I saw there is nothing short of a modern-day slave trade, with migrants treated as commodities. It’s as though nothing has changed in the 300 years since desert tribes used the very same routes to bring slaves to north Africa: Nigerian women told they are going to Italy to work as housemaids only to be trafficked into desert brothels with no idea when they might leave, young men cruelly beaten and held captive for months until their families pay a ransom, women forced to take contraception to stop themselves becoming pregnant at the hands of smugglers.

Click Here to Read from TheGuardian more

Posted by on November 19, 2017. Filed under Editor's Pick. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.