Campaign Update:

June 10, 2019: A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said “We are deeply concerned about the ghastly conditions in which migrants and refugees are being held in detention in Libya […] as well as ongoing reports of disappearances and human trafficking after people were intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard”.

Call to Close Libyan Slave Markets

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“The men on the pick-up were brought to a square, or parking lot, where a kind of slave trade was happening. There were locals – he described them as Arabs – buying sub-Saharan migrants.” Livia Manante, IOM officer.1

Since 2015, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Known as the ‘Gateway to Europe’, Libya has seen many people pass through its borders as part of their journey. Unfortunately, traffickers are exploiting the complete lack of governance in the country and migrant and refugees’ desperation. Slave markets are flourishing around the country.

Traffickers offering to take refugees and migrants to the coast are instead selling them to the highest bidder. Migrants and refugees faced with the loss of their savings and huge debts are often unable to buy their way out.

“They took people and put them in the street, under a sign that said ‘for sale’” Shamsuddin Jibril, migrant from Cameroon.2

On the market, men and women are sold for between $200 and $500 each.3 Once bought, they are held for ransom in mass prisons and detention centers, or used as forced labor or sexual exploitation. Conditions are extreme, with hundreds crammed into filthy rooms, with little space, food or access to water. Often, they will be resold and moved between prisons as their slave masters demand more and more in ransom.

Those that escape have spoken of the methods used by the slave masters to extract ransoms from relatives, including beating and torturing their captives, often while on the phone to their families.

 “People were tied up like goats, beaten with broom handles and pipes every blessed day, to get the money,” Isoomah, survivor from Liberia.4

Those that do escape are often severely malnourished and bearing the wounds of torture. Almost 100% of women reported to have been sexually abused.5 Many aren’t so fortunate – death and murder are a reality for those who can’t pay. The IOM have reported the findings of mass graves in the deserts of Libya.6

The escalation of chaos and violence in Libya since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has encouraged the spread of crime and exploitation. With no stable government to uphold the law, there is no protection for the hundreds of thousands of migrants, many without legal papers or funds, travelling through its lands.

Besides efforts to try and save lives at sea, nothing is being done to bring an end to the horrors of Libyan slave markets, and stop those rescued off the Libyan coast from being returned to detention centres where they risk enslavement.

We must call for immediate action and demand the international community take notice of this atrocity.

Case Study One: The Survivor

Yusuf and his friend Abdullah travelled to Libya from Nigeria – they paid half their fares up front and agreed to work on arrival to make up the rest. But upon completing the journey, the driver kept their money and sold them to a slave master. Accused of not paying, Yusuf and Abdullah were led away, “as we entered the building, we heard the lock turning,” Yusuf said. “Then they said , ‘you should call your family fast and ask for money.’” Following extensive torture, Abdullah died of a heart attack. Yusuf risked an escape attempt after being ordered to take his friend’s body to the hospital, scared he too would die. Although now free, Yusuf has to live with what happens and is trying to etch out a survival in Agadez, Niger.7


Case Study Two: The Slave Trader

Abahi* uses his Hilux to drive people to Sabha, in south west Libya, where they will be sold in the slave markets. The 27 migrants he transports in his van are a mix of cargo and passengers – those who haven’t fully paid their fare tragically unaware of their fate. The militia ruling the markets in Sabha pay Abahi 400 euros for each passenger who has not paid their fare. Abahi admits to worrying about the migrants’ fate, but claims, “it’s no good. But what can we do? Inside Libya, everything is ruled by the militias.”8

*Name changed to protect privacy


  • June 10, 2019: A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said “We are deeply concerned about the ghastly conditions in which migrants and refugees are being held in detention in Libya […] as well as ongoing reports of disappearances and human trafficking after people were intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard”.

  • May 3, 2019: Fiori Giovanni was born in Eritrea and escaped an arranged childhood marriage at just 12 years old. At 15, she fled Eritrea and made a harrowing journey across Libya and the Mediterranean sea, alone. Read her full story here.

  • December 21, 2018: Investigators from the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights have compiled horrific first-hand accounts of violations suffered by migrants and refugees in Libya at the hands of state officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers. Women and girls are particularly at risk of extreme sexual violence. Read more on the story here.

  • November 2018: The UN Security Council has taken action against traffickers in Libya by passing a resolution that will expand sanctions against them to cover sexual violence. This is encouraging progress but there must be a full investigation into slave markets in Libya and effective implementation of sanctions to see traffickers brought to justice. Read our story here.

Jun 19, 2017 Campaign Launches

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Lisa Craig
Lisa Craig

My question is if the same families are involved with trafficking as were involved with the slave trade for thousands of years? Financially is the only way to deter these heartless people who would enslave other people!

Lisbeth Larsen
Lisbeth Larsen

One should think slavery was a thing of the distant past!


The man transporting the people to slavery could be educating them about what they can expect. Educate the vulnerable people !!!!

Luciano Borg
Luciano Borg

Libya Slave Markets:
— Created by Goerige Bush Jr after obliterating Iraq and paving the way for ISIS (Ex-Saddam minority Sunnis are pushed out of government by majority Shiites)
— Supported by Obama whose weapon air drops were directed at ISIS (wikileaks proof)
— US Deep State now pushing Trump to continue in the steps of Bush and Obama.


Nothing to do with George Bush. Arabs and Africans have been slave traders since the beginning of time.

Luciano Borg
Luciano Borg

Well if you lived in Malta right now (Malta is between Libya and Sicily), you would understand what I am referring to – an illegal immigration of Biblical Proportions. But it is evident that you don’t.

Patricia Offer
Patricia Offer

White people like me feed the demand. We can buy Fair Trade; we can change.


This is wrong for what they did to her

Bijay Kumar Sharma

We must call upon UN to impose severest sanctions on the countries which are allowing slave trade, Let the whole civilised world know what is happening in this age age of LIBERATION and FREEDOM.We cannot permit slave trade in any part of this mother EARTH.

United Nations: Investigate Slave Markets in Libya

56,450 actions of 75,000 goal

To UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres:

Along with you, we are also horrified at CNN’s footage of African migrants being bought and sold as property in slave markets in Libya. For some time now, credible reports have emerged from Libya of vulnerable migrants being exploited. As illustrated in the footage, they are sold in slave markets to be used for forced labor or sexual exploitation or their families are extorted for ransom. While thousands of migrants and refugees travel through Libya each year, the Libyan authorities have stated that this problem is outside of their national capacity.

We are therefore calling on you and the United Nations to formally investigate these slave markets in Libya to stop this egregious practice, protect migrants and refugees from the risk of slavery in Libya and bring their traffickers to justice.

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