Slavery in Libya
The mention of Libya is reminiscent of Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi was a well-known leader in Africa and beyond, until his ousting in 2011. Under Gaddafi, Libya was a thriving and peaceful economy. The county has the largest oil reserves in Africa, and this is what bankrolled its enviable economy for many years, Libya was once home to many African immigrants as Gaddafi had an open door policy with African countries. Matters took a turn for the worse in the proverbial Promised Land when Gaddafi was overthrown by the United States in 2012, plunging it into chaos (Hove 273). Today, the slave trade thrives in Libya fuelled by lawlessness, poverty, illiteracy, and desperation of people from all over Africa seeking to travel to Europe in search of a better life.
The first reason as to why the slave trade is flourishing in Libya is political reasons. The political situation in Libya can be blamed on the interference of the United States in the affairs of the country. Gaddafi was labeled a terrorist sympathizer who had to be eliminated at all costs, leaving no regards for the land he had led for a long time. For many years, Libya enjoyed peace and prosperity under Gaddafi (Hove 277). When his reign came to a sudden end, there was no comprehensive plan on who would take over from him. The country was plunged into lawlessness, and everyone could do as they pleased. There is no one to defend the human rights of the poor and the powerless people in Libya. The slave traders have taken advantage of the state of anarchy in the country to prey upon the defenseless people. There is no government in place that would be entrusted with protecting human rights and the rights of its citizens. Slaves have no one to turn to; they are left to suffer and die in the hands of slave traders.
People are fleeing from conflict in war-torn regions of Africa. Many African counties face unique challenges such as war, famine, and political instability. In the example of Sudan, civil war has been going on for many years with no end in sight (Randall & Donald). Other countries have also faced famine and drought which has resulted in a severe lack of food. People flee their homes to search for food and other necessities. In other counties, ousting of political leaders has thrown the country into war and disorder, and the only hope is to run away. In such a state, people would like to flee to any other part of the world to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Libya is usually an attractive destination because it is the gateway to Europe where these people believe they will find a better life (Toaldo). Such people would rather leave the hell they have faced at home with hope o a better land. These people running from various challenges and calamities end up as vulnerable targets for the slave trade.
Economic reasons are mainly to blame for the slave trade in Libya. The country was rich in oil, but production of crude oil reduced significantly. Many of the basic needs such as education and healthcare used to be provided for free under Gaddafi’s regime (Hove 281). After he was dethroned, the country had no economic order and poverty became the order of the day. Everyone has to struggle to find a way to support themselves and their families. Slave trade earns money for the traders. The slave traders capture slaves desperate to get to Europe and then sell them in exchange for cash (Clark & Poucki). Many of these slaves are sold and resold by many people and the traders at every stage get a lot of money. Slavery causes a lot of pain and suffering to many people including the slaves themselves and their families (Kela). It is doubtless that the slave traders take advantage of the vulnerability of the slaves to make money for themselves. Perhaps the traders cannot find any other gainful employment or business given the economic state of the country and the, therefore, resort to slave trade.
People are desperate to go to Europe in search of a better future. Unemployment and poverty are rife in many African countries which motivates Africans to seek escape into Europe. Libya is the gateway to Europe for many people in Africa (Toaldo). People leave their countries after being promised safe passage to Europe. Desperate people come from far away after paying vast sums of money so that they can be transported to Europe. What these people do not know is that they are being taken for a ride. Most of the time, their transporters end up extorting more money from them even before they reach Libya. They are threatened that they will be killed or sold into slavery if they do not pay up. Having exhausted their savings, the travelers are forced to contact their families at home to gather more funds. All this money will be taken by slave traders who will end up letting the slaves die from torture and starvation (Kela).
Most of the people held in slavery in Libya left their homes out of ignorance on precisely what was going to happen to them (Clark & Poucki). They believed that they only had to pay someone some money to take them to Libya and from there it would be a boat ride to Spain or Italy. They simply had no information about the intricacies involved in their plans. Many people were seduced by the thought of starting a new life far away from poverty and war that they experienced at home (Randall &Donald). Many sold all of their poverty armed with nothing but hope that they would succeed in their mission. The truth is that they will have to part with all of their money and sometimes their lives as they pursue their quest. Most people immigrate into Europe illegally, and many die on the way there. The European countries have also been accused of inhuman practices of turning away immigrants who will face certain death (Kela). If a person were aware of all this, they might have chosen to remain at home and find a way to make the best of their situation.
In conclusion, it is clear that many of the causes of slavery in Egypt are indigenous to the continent. Africa faces many unique circumstances that drive its people to desperation. Chief among these challenges is poverty and unemployment. People arriving in Libya wish to seek greener pastures in Europe, and their distress lands them into slavery. Civil and political wars are also a common occurrence in African countries that leaves people homeless and desperate and therefore easy targets for slavery. Sudan and Congo are examples of war-torn counties with many years of conflict. To alleviate the problem of slavery, the root causes have to be dealt with. African governments have to find ways to strengthen their economies to create jobs and reduce levels of poverty. A solution should be sought to civil strife going on in many countries, Libya included. Many people are astounded at the thought that slavery still exists in this day and time. Swift and decisive action should be taken to protect the rights and freedoms of innocent people caught up in bondage.
Clark, Jennifer Bryson, and Sasha Poucki, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery. SAGE Publications Limited, 2018.
Hove, Mediel. “Post-Gaddafi Libya and the African Union: Challenges and the road to sustainable peace.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 52.3 (2017): 271-286.
Kela, Kiia. Human rights violations in Libya: a critical assessment on the EU’s complicity and migration policies. MS thesis. 2018.
Randall, James Garfield, and David Donald. The civil war and reconstruction. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2016.
Toaldo, Mattia. Migrations through and from Libya: a Mediterranean challenge. Rome: Instituto Affari Internazionali, 2015.