The Maneater

Column: West Africans attempt to escape poverty only to be sucked into Libyan slave trade

European leaders know their actions are perpetuating the slave trade in Libya, and they have no problem with it.

Tatyana Monnay is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

Modern-day slavery and forced labor are loaded terms that not many people think about. Celebrities like T.I. and Pharrell Williams tweeted their outrage. There were also demonstrations in Paris, Stockholm and New York with slogans like “Free our brothers!”

In April 2017, the International Organization for Migration published a report stating its staff found “slave markets” in which young African men were being tortured along North African migrant routes.

IOM estimates there are about 700,000 to 1 million migrants in Libya.

Libya’s slavery hub is being supported by the European Union’s xenophobic ideology. Most migrants trapped in the Libyan slave trade are from Western Africa who attempted to make it all the way to Europe. The main problem facing these migrants is that European countries do not want them.

Libya is the perfect country for these human rights violations to occur in because it is in turmoil after the death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Many people are trying to get the upperhand in the country right now and make as much money as possible. And as it turns out, the slave trade can be a pretty lucrative business.

In an attempt to prevent migrants from coming to Europe, the EU has started paying African authorities to stop these migrants in places like Libya and Niger. Rather than decrease the amount of migrants willing to make the trek, this human barrier has forced migrants to take more dangerous routes where human and drug trafficking are extremely active.

The EU’s deal with African authorities was made selfishly and inhumanely. In the creation of this deal, the EU ignored the warnings of several human rights organizations and the United Nations, which warned that countries like Niger and Libya do not have the infrastructure or training to properly treat migrants.

A Libyan coast guard commander told the Human Rights Watch in April 2017 that the use of force, often violence, against migrants was “necessary to control the situation as you cannot communicate with them.”

Even though this issue recently received international attention, this is old news. So, where have we been?

The dehumanization of migrants in Libya is being further exacerbated by the EU. After ignoring warnings of even more human rights abuses, the EU adopted a plan to use 90 million euros for “improved migration management” in Libya.

This whole issue makes me wonder: Why does Europe not want West African migrants? What makes these people so bad that Europe would rather see these people dehumanized and often killed? What kind of person would put someone in that situation if they had the power to do so?

The EU must provide safe travel routes for migrants and stop supporting African authorities in Libya and Niger who detain migrants. The superpowers of the world such as the United States should not be silent in the face of this issue.

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