US-based cable network CNN carried out an investigation into the slave trade market flourishing in Libya, as migrants trying to reach Europe via Libya continue to be subjected to violent treatment and abuse.
The investigation showed a new low of the migrant crisis, proving what many experts had feared. Most of the leaders from West Africa criticized the development. (Most of the migrants come from West African countries.) President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou felt particularly revolted by the reports, summoning the Libyan ambassador to Niger and demanding the International Court of Justice investigate Libya for trading slaves. Meanwhile the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, Alpha Barry, told the press that he had also summoned the Libyan ambassador to the capital Ouagadougou for consultations.
Most refugees stranded in Libya come from West Africa, from countries such as Nigeria, Guinea, Burkina Faso or Ivory Coast. Additionally, many Eritreans and Somalians are also among those who hope to find a better future in Europe. Oftentimes they use a route crossing Niger's desert city of Agadez, where they encounter human traffickers, who promise to get them to the Mediterranean Coast and on to Europe. That journey, however, often ends in Libya.
"We were slaves," said Moussa Sanogo, a migrant who flew back to Ivory Coast from Libya this week after surviving regular beatings and forced labour in the fields. "For the Arabs (Libyan jailers), black-skinned men are nothing but animals - animals were treated better," said Sanogo, who spent more than four months in Libya trying to get to Italy by boat. The North African country has long been a major transit hub for migrants trying to reach Europe.
He was just one of those who returned home with stories similar to those aired last week by US TV network CNN, which showed an apparent slave auction where black men were presented to North African buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400.
Sanogo, 22, was one of about 600 Ivory Coast migrants that were returning from Libya with IOM's support. Around 150 people landed in the capital Abidjan on Monday with the rest to be brought home during the week.
Sanogo described Libya as an anarchic country preyed on by bandits where the forces of law and order were involved in human trafficking. "At one point, we were caught by people who said they were police," he said.
"The police then sold me for $365 to a man who made me work in a tomato field for a month. You have to work." Sanogo fled across the desert to Niger where he was imprisoned again before finally escaping to Tunisia.
The slave auction footage has triggered an outcry across Africa, bringing to public consciousness a situation that has previously been condemned by many non-governmental groups and observers.
Music and football stars have expressed their outrage at the revelations, including Ivorian reggae singers Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly, as well as footballer Didier Drogba. This has been termed as a "humiliation for Africa."