Slavery has been sweeping across Libya under a veil — the slave trade has been occurring for approximately two years with little talk of it outside of U.N. meetings. This issue has been largely ignored after the few protests that occurred earlier in the year. The Libyan slave trade has not been highlighted in national news the way it would have been had it been a Western country’s citizens exhorted for labour.

Libya is the main transit point for refugees attempting to seek asylum in Europe by sea travel. During the last few years, nearly 155,000 people have crossed the perilous path across the Mediterranean Sea. With estimates nearing one million people trapped in Libya, reports of robbery, murder, and rape have skyrocketed. These migrants are constantly being sold as labourers. Theyare treated like inanimate objects, labelled as commodities to be bought and discarded at the convenience of the owner.

Libya has undoubtedly been afflicted by turmoil since the long serving ruler Colenel Muhammad Gaffadi was removed from power in 2011, and has since been largely considered a failed state. Under these circumstances, the slave trade has thrived. It is viewed as a worthwhile endeavor for overflowing warehouses in need of workers, or smugglers who have no other way to make money.

Undertaking the responsibility of discontinuing these inhumane practices is a heavy but necessary effort the global community must indulge in. Tackling the country’s humanitarian crisis will require international assistance, and as we have seen, the rest of the world turns a blind eye to most non-Western issues. Some may argue that the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and said it would be to stop the abuses. However, the U.N refugee agency said it faces “dramatic” funding gaps, especially for its operations in sub-Saharan Africa.

This is evidently a crime against humanity.  U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned the abuses, saying: “To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, quote, ‘big strong boys for farm work,’ should shock the conscience of us all.” There are not many violations of human rights and dignity that exceed the slave trade in Libya, though it receives little attention from those that are unaffected.

The slave trade also stems from European Union immigration policy.  Following the threat of large scale attacks against their citizens, many regions have tightened their borders, making foreigners looking for refuge unwelcome. The EU is no stranger to this policy, and has failed to provide safe, alternate routes for immigrants fleeing terror. Now, there are more people in Libya at risk of being sold into slavery, or kidnapped and tortured by the hands of smugglers.   However, many ignore the other end of it: the pervasive anti-blackness in the Middle East and North Africa region, which has been an issue far before the slave trade began.

We must concentrate on human suffering across the globe—and look at individual traumas, which, in turn, can help us realize the consequences of the EU policy and Libya’s lawlessness. For four years, the anti-immigrant sentiment has been sweeping across the majority of Europe. To date, asylum seekers’ best hope for rescue lies with the humanitarian vessels patrolling the Mediterranean.



1)  Quackenbush, C. (2017, December 01). Libyan Slave Trade: Here’s What You Need to Know. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from
2) Slave auctions in Libya caught on camera. (2017, December 04). Retrieved April 11, 2018, from
3) Dagher, S. (2011, June 21). Libya City Torn by Tribal Feud. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from