THE Libyan government says it is committed to investigating allegations that hundreds of African refugees and migrants passing through Libya are being bought and sold in modern-day slave markets.
According to international reports, the slave trade preys on thousands of vulnerable people who risk everything to get to Libya’s coast and then across the Mediterranean into Europe. Many people have drowned while thousands more have been rescued by international patrols during the risky journey.
Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150 000 people making the crossing in each of the past three years.
Speaking at a recent press conference in Maseru, Libya’s Charge D’Affaires in Lesotho, Abdulhafed Jaber, said the Libyan government would immediately order the relevant authorities, to open a comprehensive investigation into the slave trade allegations under Libyan laws in order to establish the veracity of the claims, pursue and punish those responsible.
He said if true, the slave trade was one of the unfortunate consequences of the illegal migrations of Africans and Libya which bore the brunt of such activities had already spent considerable amounts of money to establish and manage immigrant shelters as well as facilitate voluntary rehabilitation of victims.
He said Libya did not condone any practices that violated the human rights and dignity of all people regardless of race, saying where such practices were recorded they were the work of individual criminal elements.
“Libya considers such practices, if any, to be one of the consequences of illegal immigration,” Dr Abdulhafed Jaber said.
“The government of the National Accord (of Libya) renews its condemnation of the practice of trafficking and smuggling of persons at all national regional and international levels.
“Libya is most affected and it shoulders responsibility for addressing the phenomenon of illegal immigration. This is a common responsibility we share with the countries of origin, transit and destination.”
He said despite Libya’s political economic and security challenges, it bore the brunt of saving illegal migrants in its territorial waters, sheltering them, providing healthcare, necessary needs and deporting them with the very limited support from the international community.
He called on all nations including the European Union (EU) to take practical steps to address the problem of illegal migrations and trafficking of persons, saying the EU and the international community could cooperate with the countries of origin to establish sustainable development projects to curb this phenomenon and its serious repercussions.
He said while Libyan authorities had committed resources to securing its southern borders which were mainly used by the illegal immigrants, his country should be assisted to “address the cost of the camp centres, support for Libya’s areas affected by illegal immigration as well as support for capacity building of security institutions”.
He said Libya had a long history of brotherhood and cooperation with its “African brothers”, adding, they had been “linked together since ancient times in the pursuit of friendship and common destiny”.
“Libya has long been committed to partnership and investment in African countries. It has opened its territory to African brothers and has been receiving more than two million expatriate workers from African countries who work in various professions and live in dignity and security legally.
Libya has investments of more than US$10 billion in African countries.
“We emphasise the depth of the historical ties and ties that unite the Libyan people and their African brothers. We believe that the real sustainable wealth of people is the human element and that the best way to help the countries exporting immigration is to develop human capacities to give them the ability to produce and give,” Dr Abdulhafed Jaber said.