Survivors of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Libya share their stories and highlight the dangers that migrant women continue to face in the country.
Aisha, a graduate in hotel management from Guinea, fled her home country after experiencing miscarriages that led her in-laws and community to reprimand her for being either sterile or a witch.
She contacted a former classmate who had settled in neighbouring Libya and, with her classmate’s help, fled to Libya.
However, Aisha was lured under false pretences; once in Libya, she was trapped in a room and realized she had been trafficked for sexual exploitation.
France 24 reports:
“I didn’t even see the country. As soon as I arrived, I was locked up, I was a slave. She brought men to me and she got the money.”
Locked in a room with a toilet, she only saw the “friend” who had duped her when she was brought in food, “like a dog”.
“The men came drunk. I’d rather not remember it,” said Aisha, still trembling. “I thought my life was over.”
Another survivor, Mariam, migrated to Libya from Côte d’Ivoire and hoped to earn enough there to reach Europe.
But after militiamen arrested her, she was placed in an illegal migrant camp where extortion, rape, and forced labour are rampant.
“Every morning, a chief would make his choices and send the chosen girls to Libyans who had rented special rooms,” said Mariam.
“They fed me bread, sardines and salad. I stayed there a month until they moved me to another place,” she recalled, her voice spiked with anger.
“They were armed, they smoked drugs, they paid the chief but not me.”
Both Aisha and Mariam eventually managed to escape safely to Tunisia, but many others remain trapped; according to Mongi Slim, head of the local Red Crescent, the sexual exploitation of migrant women in Libya is “almost systematic.”
Cases of modern slavery in Libya have evolved considerably with the intensification of the Libyan conflict, and observers including the United Nations have noted a high incidence of sexual violence.
The Libyan Coastguard, which is supported by the EU, enables this abuse by sending intercepted migrants to detention centres where they face numerous human rights abuses in addition to modern slavery.
We must protect migrants and end this cycle of exploitation, and we can start by putting pressure on the EU to put human lives before inhume immigration policies that send refugees and migrants back into danger in Libya.
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