‘He Beat Me with an Iron Bar’: Nigerians Tell of Being Sold as Slaves in Libya

An African migrant with his hands chained, takes part in a march towards the offices of the European Union during a demonstration on December 2, 2017 in central Athens, protesting against the slavery of migrants in Libya and against the deals between the European Union (EU) and Turkey and between …
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

Some Nigerians who were sold, leased, and used as slaves after being detained by Libyan authorities shared their horrific ordeal, telling the BBC that captives are often beaten, starved, raped, and even killed by prison guards.

“They come to our caravans [cells], they pick six persons to do their dirty jobs to do farming, brick-laying work,” Lucky Akhanene, a former slave, told BBC. “They give us out to their friends. They don’t pay us. It’s just hard labor, if you’re not fast with your job you get beaten.”

“He beat me with an iron bar,” added Mac Agheyere, referring to a business owner who used him as a slave after paying for his bail at a Libyan prison. “They took barbed wire and tied my hands and my feet and threw me inside a car and took me back to prison.”

The Nigerian migrants revealed that prison authorities and slave owners gave them very little food — a small piece of bread in the morning and watery pasta in the evening.

“Some said they drank water from the toilet. They were regularly rounded up and beaten,” reports BBC.

“They beat boys,” said Fatima Atewe, one of the only women to speak to the BBC, later adding, “Many people are dying there day and night.”

One of the migrants told the BBC that slaves are sold for about $735.

Last year, the United Nations learned from survivors that hundreds of migrants from West Africa are being bought and auctioned off at public “slave markets” in Libya.

Captives are allegedly beaten on a daily basis and forced to call their families to pay for their release. Kidnappers starve to death those who cannot get money.

Moreover, prison guards reportedly rape female detainees.

“The situation is dire,” declared Mohammed Abdiker, the director of Operations and Emergencies at the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Niger.

“The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for many migrants,” he added. “Some reports are truly horrifying, and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages.”

Currently, the European Union is reportedly working with Libyan coastguards to combat the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Meanwhile, the human rights group Amnesty International claims, “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya.”

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