In at least nine different locations across Libya, trapped migrants from other African countries are being sold into slavery for roughy $400 each, according to reports from CNN earlier this month.
A team of investigative reporters from CNN traveled to Libya after receiving video footage of a migrant slave auction taking place in the North African country. As reported by the outlet, what they found there was horrifying: Men and women from other African nations being auctioned off for a few hundred dollars by smugglers who originally promised to help them find a safe way to Europe.
Over the last three years, over 450,000 migrants and refugees have travelled through Libya and entered Europe. Over 3,000 people have died making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea — but now, the trip is even more dangerous. Efforts by the Libyan coast guard and the Italian government have stopped hundreds of thousands of migrants, many of them fleeing Nigeria, from leaving Libya. It is estimated that between 400,000 and 1 million men, women, and children are trapped in the country.
While fleeing, these migrants quickly become vulnerable to theft, rape, murder, and human trafficking. Often, they are preyed upon by smugglers who promise to find them safe passage to Europe. Instead, the migrants are sold at slave auctions to settle debts.
Global humanitarian crises like this are usually met with a wave of shock and outrage — quickly followed by an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. If you are angry and ready to help in this dire crisis but aren’t sure how to fight back, here are a few ways to help stop the Libyan slave trade.
1Know the facts and share them widely.
In an age when the President of the United States calls facts he disagrees with “fake news” while he simultaneously retweets anti-Muslim propaganda videos, knowing and understanding the facts is crucial. Educate yourself about what is happening in Libya and how it began, who is being affected by the slave trade, and who is actually buying and selling slaves. You should also take time to learn about the different causes of slavery around the world, including poverty, migration, and the global demand for cheap labor and cheap goods.
Once you’ve brushed up on the facts, share them widely. Spread the word about the atrocities in Libya using your social media accounts. Talk about it in everyday conversation. If you hear someone repeat a false claim about the crisis or you’re faced with a person who tries to refute it, stand your ground and give them the facts.
2Contact U.S. representatives and reach out to global leaders to demand action.
Since news broke about the slave trade in Libya, there has been a global public outcry for world leaders to step in and prevent further atrocities. People have been sharing their outrage on social media and across opinion pages, while others have taken to the streets to protest their government’s inaction. If you want to make sure your voice is heard, contact Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. You can also write to the U.N. to express your concern and show support for their current initiative to begin investigating the Libyan slave trade.
3Shop smarter, and hold businesses accountable for the role they play in the global slave trade.
In order to put an end to slavery, we have to stop enabling it to flourish. That means changing our consumer behavior and demanding businesses be held accountable for their role in using, promoting, and enabling slavery around the world.
According to several reports, technology companies like Facebook make it easier for smugglers to promote their slave auctions by allowing them to broadcast videos of captive migrants on the platform. Other businesses have been accused of using slave labor to keep their production costs low, including H&M, Nestle, and most recently Haribo, the gummy bear company.
If you want to combat slavery around the world, make conscious decisions about where you shop and what you buy. As the old saying goes, the customer is always right, so demand that brands and corporations aren’t complicit in the crisis. Write to them and express your concerns.
4Support anti-slavery efforts and organizations.
There are tens of millions of enslaved people around the world. In order to put an end to this global epidemic, it’s important to not only raise awareness about Libya’s current crisis, but to support the organizations working every day to fight modern slavery.
To express your support, donate to anti-slavery organizations like Anti-Slavery International, Free the Slaves, Save the Children, and the Polaris Project. You can also help support broader efforts that combat the root causes of slavery, including those by The International Organization for Migration (IOM) to reform migrant detention and the United Nations Refugee Agency to provide critical emergency services for refugees around the world.
It is terrifying to think that, in 2017, men, women, and children are being sold into slavery every day. But by understanding how it happens, who is responsible for it, and how it can be stopped, you can help end this global crisis. (To find more ways to fight back, check out Bustle’s list of ways to help end slavery around the world.)