The Slave Crisis in Libya

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If someone asked you to point to Libya on a world map, could you? In light of recent tragic events, the answer to that question, for more and more people, is yes. Libya has been shoved into the international spotlight over the past months after staggering footage released by CNN has uncovered the real existence of slave auctions. In the video, young men stand in front of a crowd of hungry buyers as the auctioneer rattles off bids. Ultimately, the agreed price is set at roughly $800 for two human beings. You can view that video excerpt from CNN below.

Smugglers in Libya are auctioning migrants off as slaves. At a property outside Tripoli, CNN's Nima Elbagir witnessed a dozen men go under the hammer in the space of minutes.

The world was astounded and, justifiably, outraged at the undeniable evidence of a very real and thriving slave trade. Although slavery is technically illegal all over the world, in practice, its scope is massive and overwhelming. 

A troubling aspect of the slave trade in Libya--beyond the fact of its very existence--is that its victims are refugees. They are individuals in pursuit of a better life, whether that be freedom from poverty or freedom from violent conflict in their home countries. Some might have never wanted to leave in the first place. No matter the motivation, they are desperate enough to place their lives in the hands of smugglers and attempt the perilous journey to Libya’s coast and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. 

The map, provided by Refugees International, shows the migration path of refugees that travel through Libya on their way to Europe.

The map, provided by Refugees International, shows the migration path of refugees that travel through Libya on their way to Europe.

Many perish at sea, while others are caught in, perhaps, worse predicaments. As the Libyan coastguard expends more resources to halt smuggling boats, fewer people are even getting the chance to make it into the water. Consequently, the smugglers funnel the would-be migrants and refugees, who have given up all their material and monetary resources to escape the horrors of their old lives, into bondage. 

What can be done?

Libya’s government has promised to launch an investigation, but we do not have to stand aside and wait. After all, what has ever been accomplished from inaction? 

This is a sinister issue, and the following responses can help us move toward change and hope.

Advocate within your personal network:

Even if you’re not already a Dressember advocate, this is what we should be talking about. Solving problems begins on an individual level, and by publicly supporting justice--whether through social media or organized protests--you show your friends, family, and community why they should care, too. Raising awareness should not be underrated.

Reach out to national and international leaders:

Like with any issue, your voice matters, especially if it’s part of a collective voice. By contacting 1) your state representatives, 2) Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, or 3) the UN directly, you can add to the fervent requests for the continuation of efforts to end the slave trade once and for all. 

Contact social media companies to request stricter regulations against trafficking:

According to a report by CNN, smugglers have historically used Facebook Live to promote their auctions and broadcast imprisoned, abused migrants. Some have used these videos to send to victims’ families for ransom money. Help by asking social media companies like Facebook to ban this practice on their platforms.

Support anti-slavery efforts and organizations: 

The slave trade, while recently resurfacing into our conscious, is not a new issue. Thankfully there are groups that have been focusing on this type of advocacy work for years, and organizations like the International Organization for Migration are broader efforts that address root causes of slavery.

Make ethical purchasing decisions and hold businesses accountable:

So many of the commercial products used on a daily basis are made through slave labor to keep costs low. By shopping ethical/fair trade, you can reduce the demand that helps the slave trade flourish. If one of your favorite companies has a dirty supply chain, boycott them and let them know you have higher expectations. It feels better to use/wear products that are fair and dignified.

This is only the beginning. By increasing your mindfulness of this issue and your part in stopping it, you can find tons of creative and considerate ways to make a difference.

Criminology teaches that effective punishment is swift, certain, and severe. One can argue the same idea stands true for the necessary response to injustice, from governments and civilians alike. We must respond swiftly, without hesitation; certainly, knowing that injustice is unacceptable; and severely, beyond a mere slap on the wrist, to ensure that it is acknowledged that slavery is a global atrocity. You can help by advocating and donating, sharing and protesting, in order to make this world look a little more as it ought.



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About the Author

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Chynna Terrell is an ENFJ who will graduate in May with a degree in English Literature from the University of Oklahoma (boomer!). Aside from school, she serves as president of her InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter and loves to write and edit for the Dressember blog. And, why yes, she would love to have you over for a hot cup of tea, a puzzle, and good conversation.