Call to Investigate and Close Libyan Slave Markets

Call to End Slavery in Libya

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The world was shocked when news of slave markets in Libya broke four years ago, but since then cases of modern slavery, slave trade and slave auctions in Libya have evolved considerably. And they are all linked back to migrant detention centers and the money and power fueling their existence.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations have all documented major human rights violations and clear cases of modern slavery in these facilities.

So who’s throwing these vulnerable people behind bars?

The Libyan Coastguard — supported generously by funding from the European Union.1,2

In a bid to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching the shores of Europe, the Libyan Coastguard has increased its interception of boats in the Mediterranean Sea, returning those on board to Libya and locking them up in migrant detention centers.3

And as the devastating, deadly airstrike on the Tajoura migrant detention center shows, these facilities are now targets in the country’s ongoing conflict and no place for refugees to live.

We know racism within Libya is contributing to the problem as well; black and dark-skinned refugees and migrants from Sub-Saharan African are the majority of those trafficked and subjected to forced labor. The United Nations even reported that “a commonly used word to refer to black people in Libya is ‘abidat’, which translates to “slaves.”4

Take it from Leyla, a Somali refugee.

“We barely ate and there wasn’t enough water. So many people were sick with TB, some died in my arms. I was beaten up and we were tortured – with electricity,” she said.5

She and her husband fled Islamist al-Shabab militants in Somalia in 2016 but ended up in the hands of human traffickers in Libya. When they managed to escape their traffickers, the couple boarded an inflatable boat, hoping to cross the Mediterranean.

But when their boat ran out of fuel it was the Libyan Coastguard that forcibly took them to Tripoli, locking them up in the Triq al-Sikka Detention Center. Running out of hope that they would be freed, her husband set himself on fire, burning to death.

A petition has been prepared, we must break this cycle of exploitation.

And that starts with putting pressure on the EU. Telling the EU to put human lives before inhume immigration policies that are sending refugees and migrants back into danger in Libya.

Your signature tells the EU that it can no longer be complicit in allowing modern slavery to persist in Libya. Act now and sign the petition.

  • November 2022: Despite hundreds of activists taking to the streets around Europe and flooding social media, Italy’s far-right government failed to take action against modern slavery in Libya. The Italy-Libya Memorandum was renewed, but we won’t stop fighting for justice and freedom for every person who faces forced labor, torture, extortion and abuse in Libya.

  • October, 2022: Hundreds of you in the Freedom United community have taken to Twitter to call on the Ambassador of Italy to Libya and the Ministry of the Interior to cancel the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding. From Barcelona to Berlin, activists in at least 15 European cities also protested on October 15. Read more.

  • October 2022:  Six human rights groups have lodged a complaint accusing the E.U. border agency Frontex of failing to assess the risks to human rights associated with its support for the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. An E.U. ombudsman has opened an inquiry as a result of the complaint and has asked Frontex to provide information on whether risk assessments were carried out. Read more.

  • August 2022: A new report by Alarm Phone documents the rise of the Department of Combating Settlement and Illegal Migration (DCSIM), a competing body of the Government of National Unity’s DCIM, created by a faction of the Stability Support Apparatus (SSA). This group has been responsible for nearly half of all the returns since the beginning of 2022 and is notorious for its brutality.

    The SSA manages the Al Maya detention centers, located about 30 km west of Tripoli. Survivors have reported “guards regularly beating detained migrants and refugees and subjecting them to forced labour, rape and other sexual violence, including forced prostitution” in these centers.

    Read the full report here.

  • July 2022: Dozens of the Freedom United community in Italy took to Twitter to demand that their representatives say #NoToItalianComplicity in slavery in Libya. Ahead of a vote on the renewal of funding for Italy’s military missions in support of the Libyan Coast Guard, we mobilized to ask key decision-makers to reject the proposal. And they heard us! Days later, Enrico Letta, secretary of the Democratic Party, announced that his party would abstain from the vote on one of the key support missions. Although the proposal still received enough support to go ahead, this decision is an important turning point in the party’s stance on cooperation with Libya.

  • Jun 19, 2017: Campaign Launches

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.

Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

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5 years ago

I charge every American news outlet to be in American faces with this story! We are bombarded with slavery from the past that we can do nothing about, how about slavery happening now? I wonder if they have the courage to tell these victims stories!

Palma Cady
Palma Cady
5 years ago
Reply to  Eve
It is being reported. ALL of it is important, both the ongoing repercussions of slavery at the foundation of U.S.A. and any slavery anywhere. Its not an either/or circumstance. All slavery, past and present, must be faced, stopped and amends must be made by those who profited from it at any stage.

2 years ago
Reply to  Palma Cady

Wait a minute, Europeans went to Africa to buy slaves, Arabs are still owning nearly 20 million blacks as slaves, yet your anger is geared only towards Americans?

4 years ago
Reply to  Palma Cady

YES, THe Proceeds of Crime. Slavery,factory,mine,mill owner or any other exploitation on which dynasties are based. Expose and remove their assets.

Keith Rycroft
Keith Rycroft
5 years ago

Inhuman, No Human Being can or should own another.

Siv-Ingvild Thirud
Siv-Ingvild Thirud
5 years ago

I agree this is so terrible. And it is a Direct result of the NATO bombing the country and removing Gadaffi. I Wonder if they are proud now, all those who said “something must be done”? But inthis situation now, what can be done? Who can do anything?

outraged human being
outraged human being
4 years ago

Thank you so much for this petition and the background informations! It’s horrible! Gaddafi was called as “crazy dictator” and killed by “Western States” (NATO members)… But he supported OAS and spent plenty of money for infrastructure not only in Libya…!!! I didn’t like him. But when I compare him with the crazy man in WH …… and what is happening now in North Africa… – I think, many people wish Gaddafi back…., isn’t it?

5 years ago

How could I look at myself in the mirror tomorrow, knowing that I had heard about this and done nothing?

Investigate Slavery in Libya

Help us reach 100,000 actions

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.

Freedom United will protect your privacy while updating you on campaigns, news and stories about modern slavery.

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