Tell the EU to end slavery in Libya -

Call to end slavery in Libya

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Modern slavery in Libya

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

Libya’s coastguard and Europe’s complicity

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 have 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 Africa 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, and 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.

How you can help

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.

  • May 2023: “We have been killed, we have been raped, we have been tortured, we have been extorted, and we have been put to forced labor,” says David Yambio, Libya survivor and advocate. Listen to his testament here.


  • December 2022: Human Rights Watch and Border Forensics have released in a multimedia research feature with a clear conclusion: the E.U.’s border agency, Frontex, is using aerial surveillance to facilitate returns to Libya, where people on the move face systematic abuse, often amounting to modern slavery.  By alerting the Libyan Coast Guard to the location of migrant boats, Frontex is complicit in the abuse people suffer on return to Libya. Read more.

  • 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.

  • Jun 19, 2017: Campaign Launches

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


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Andrew (Andy) Alcock
Andrew (Andy) Alcock
4 years ago

It was NATO that caused the whole catastrophe in Libya in 2011 by toppling its government, killing and maiming many of its people, creating massive numbers of refugees and destroying infrastructure. Now European governments don’t want to take responsibility for the refugees who are the victims of their criminal actions.

Citizens of NATO nations should ensure that their leaders take responsibility for the death and suffering that they caused and that they do everything to assist the victims.

Luigi Rosolin
Luigi Rosolin
4 years ago

Refuge are not only from Syria most are black young people from Africa that tray to follow the dream of EU, but end in picking up tomato in Italy under mafia or in Spain orticulture with same treatment. Pour pay, terrible condition. Some are like the Nigeria now controlling the prostitution and drug in Italy where people are logically not so happy about to had such criminal there by already fight drangheda, camorra and mafia with a lot of corruption. France and UK are not in better situation !

2 years ago

If all these Western powers stopped pretending they are still empires/imperial to the rest of the world, we might see some sense in foreign policy! The state of western leaders is dismal to say the least in terms of hope and positive change, where the self interested basis of policies is exchanged for the humane and peaceful solutions needed! Yemen is a point in case also!

4 years ago

Human trafficking is against humanity hence it must be end as early as possible ,thanks

Yvonne Lyons
Yvonne Lyons
4 years ago

These atrocious acts against refugees in Libya are simply something that should never ever be able to exist and happen in this world today. Someone and some authority /body including the EU has to take responsibility for being part of the henious acts perpetrated upon these refugee victims. Unless this happens we will be a very long way from aiding these desperate people into living normal, decent and fulfilling lives.

Tell the EU to end slavery in Libya


Help us reach 50,000

Migrants and refugees are systematically subjected to arbitrary detention, forced labor, torture, extortion and other forms of abuse and exploitation in Libyan detention centers.

Despite evidence of this grave mistreatment, the E.U. and its Member States continue to support this exploitative detention system by providing financial and technical support to the Libyan authorities.

I urge E.U. governments to:

  • Cease funding for the Libyan Coastguard
  • Push to close all migrant detention centers in Libya, release and evacuate of all men, women and children currently detained there
  • Set up of a disembarkation and relocation mechanism for people rescued in the Mediterranean Sea not tied to the Libyan Coastguard
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