Skip to content Skip to footer

The truth behind Libya’s slave auctions: immigration, lawlessness, and chaos

A CNN investigation has released some harrowing new findings in Tripoli, Libya.

After seeing footage of what appeared to be a “Slave Auction,” CNN decided investigate what was going on in the African country.

Human beings are being sold for Libyan equivalent of $400 USD. Al Jareeza reports that a morgue in the city of Sabha, is “overflowing with corpses.”

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig. What am I bid, what am I bid?” Are the words ringing throughout the streets of Libya, where the CNN crew witnesses the hustle of an auction, young men being advertised on their appearance and work capabilities.

The transactions that take place are swift. After the slave’s old masters are paid, their new “masters” now own them. Money is offered, they are bid on, and sold — simple as that.

In an attempted interview statement from two recently sold men, CNN was met with shock and silence.

“After the auction, we met two of the men who had been sold. They were so traumatized by what they’d been through that they could not speak, and so scared that they were suspicious of everyone they met.”

Where are these people coming from? Refugees from Nigeria are smuggled into Libya under the premise that they are making their way to European shores for a better life.

Gang members who are working as the smugglers then capture the refugees, in most cases torture them, and then sell them as slaves.

CNN has since handed over the evidence to Libyan government officials. The director of operation and emergencies Mohammad Abdiker tells CNN,

“The situation is dire… Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages.”

The victims are subject to prostitution, mutilation, and murder. Women are being forced to work in prostitution rings in order to pay for their freedom.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, Hassan, a restaurant owner, said that women are in the most danger. They are “stuck in Libya with nowhere to go.”

CNN spoke with Tripoli detention center supervisor Anes Alazabi on what he has personally witnessed of the slave treatment.

“I’m suffering for them. What I have seen here daily, believe me, it makes me feel pain for them,” he says. “Every day I can hear a new story from people. You have to listen to all of them. It’s their right to deliver their voices.”

So why are we just hearing about this?

CNN offers a full recount of the stories shared with them on their time there, but not all news reports and information we’re receiving seems to be 100% true.

Photographs emerging from the “slave trade” that circulated the internet this month have been exposed as unrelated to Libya completely.

“Slaves” looking bloody and beaten care flying around the internet, and have gone viral without a traceable source.


The more important question here is, ‘When did this whole war start, and how did it happen?’

Back in 2003, Muammar Gaddafi, the murderous dictator of Libya, came to an agreement with the United States to hand over all weapons of mass destruction in return for his life.

Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had different plans. In 2011, she led US forces into Libya, where Gaddafi was captured and killed in a battle. His body was then dragged through the streets of Tripoli.

Libya has been no stranger to smuggling networks due to its easy access coast, with over 150,000 migrants reaching Europe through its trails.

The Washington Post reports that this is due to the lack of law and governing system throughout the country.

Leonard Doyle of the International Organization for Migration tells Al Jazeera that despite how shocking it may seem, migrants are coming into Libya from all parts of the continent, and tricked into believing they are entering a new life.

“Libya is a country as big as France, with a lot of space there. Migrants are coming there … they see the promise of a new life when they go to their Facebook feed and they think something wonderful is waiting for them in Europe, because a smuggler has abused the system and has sold them that lie.”

The U.N Secretary General António Guterres has called on the world to “unite in fighting this scourge”.

“I abhor these appalling acts and call upon all competent authorities to investigate these activities without delay and to bring the perpetrators to justice… Slavery has no place in our world and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity.”

What’s being hidden from us, and what’s the bigger story? Why has it taken so long to come forward with the parties that have affected Libya’s state?

The clock is ticking. Hopefully, the world is serious about addressing this matter and we will be reading stories of redemption within the next couple days.