Migrants sold into slavery in Libya tell of ‘total hell’

Ivorian migrants returning from Libya to be repatriated in their country arrive at the airport of Abidjan on November 20, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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Migrants sold into slavery in Libya tell of ‘total hell’

ABIDJAN: Survivors of slave auctions in Libya have described a “total hell” that they would not wish on their “worst enemy” as global outrage grows over footage showing migrants being sold off in the war-torn country.
“We were slaves,” said Moussa Sanogo, a migrant who flew back to Ivory Coast from Libya this week after surviving regular beatings and forced labor 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 (€340).
“It was total hell in Libya,” said Maxime Ndong, one of 250 migrants flown back to Cameroon on Tuesday night.
“There is a trade in black people there. People who want slaves... come to buy them,” he told AFP.
“If you resist, they shoot at you. There have been deaths,” said Ndong, who spent eight months in Libya.
The Cameroonians flew back to Yaounde on Tuesday aboard a plane charted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as part of a project to return and reintegrate some 850 people.
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 500 dinars (€310, $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.
Then a people smuggler promising a path to Europe convinced him to return to Libya.
“We were captured and locked in a small room with 60 other people,” and were “not able to wash,” he said.
“When the Arabs entered they wore masks due to the smell,” he said, shaking his head at the memory.
“They are buying you. You’re there, you have been arrested, you see they are judging your price like merchandise. They bought you and you’re going to work... like a slave,” he said.
“They hit you all the time — especially if you’re big like me — until the blood flows, with sticks, metal, the butt of a gun.
“For food, you are given a piece of bread and a piece of cheese, that’s all... I’m happy to be back,” he said.
“I would not wish it on my enemy.”
Another migrant, Seydou Sanogo from Abidjan, said: “You would have to see what we lived through to believe it.”
But not everyone wanted to leave Libya. One woman with an 18-month-old baby said she did not want to return to Ivory Coast.
“We were waiting for the boat. We were almost there,” said the woman, who did not give her name.
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.
“It is a double indignation, a cry from the heart: I am shocked to see the children of Africa die... trying to find a better tomorrow,” said A’Salfo, lead singer of the group Magic System.
“A humiliation for Africa.”
The UN said the slavery auctions should be investigated as possible crimes against humanity, and the issue will be on agenda at an African Union-EU summit on Nov. 29-30 in Abidjan.


Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza after lull

Updated 6 min 5 sec ago
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Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza after lull

  • Hamas disavowed the launch and said it was investigating the incident, as fears of a new war rose
  • Near daily protests along the border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army

JERUSALEM: Israel ordered the country’s goods and people border crossings with Gaza to be opened on Sunday, just four days after shuttering them following a Palestinian rocket attack that sparked retaliatory strikes.
The move followed efforts to prevent an escalation in ongoing violence that has raised fears of a new war between Israel and the Palestinian territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
“The decision comes after a decrease in the violent events in Gaza over the weekend and efforts Hamas made to restrain” demonstrators, a statement from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office read.
On Wednesday, Lieberman had ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez crossing for people, after a rocket from the Palestinian territory hit a home in southern Israel, prompting the Jewish state to strike 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.
Hamas disavowed the launch and said it was investigating the incident, as alarm over a potential broader conflict rose.
Near daily protests along the Gaza border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army.
More than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed in the violence.
On Friday, thousands again gathered for protests in northern Gaza, but demonstrators largely remained at least 100 meters (yards) from the border.
An Israeli army spokesman told AFP that while most of the protesters stayed back from the fence, some came close and threw explosive devices and hand grenades at troops, while burning tires.
At least 130 Palestinians were injured by live fire in clashes with Israeli soldiers, the Gaza health ministry said.
Hamas officials were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence.
Israel had on Wednesday also suspended the delivery of fuel for the Palestinian territory’s power plant that had been trucked daily into Gaza under a deal brokered by the United Nations.
“The decision on the renewal of the fuel from Qatar has been put off as for the time being, and will be examined in a number of days based on the events,” the Sunday statement from Lieberman said.
An Egyptian security delegation that visited the Gaza Strip on Thursday had encouraged Hamas leader Ismail Haniya to calm the protests, according to an Egyptian official.
On Friday, United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov also urged all sides “to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation.”
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and fears of a fourth have spurred efforts by Egypt and the United Nations for a wider deal that would see Israel ease its blockade in exchange for a long-term truce with the militants.