There is an estimated 48,000 people living in modern slavery in Libya (GSI 2018). Libya is a major transit destination for migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe by sea. Human trafficking networks have prospered amid lawlessness, created by the warring militias that have been fighting for control of territories since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Highly organized trafficking and migrants smuggling networks that reach into Libya from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan states subject migrants to forced labor and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, debt bondage, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. In some cases, migrants reportedly pay smuggling fees to reach Tripoli, but once they cross the Libyan border they are sometimes abandoned in southern cities or the desert where they are susceptible to severe forms of abuse and human trafficking.
Abebi*, a small business owner, was in need of more income after the death of her husband. She was targeted by a woman and told she could travel to Egypt to buy goods for her shop. Abebi paid the woman for a passport and ticket to Egypt, however she found herself in Libya where she was sold into domestic servitude.
I used to own shops where I sold goods. After my husband died when I was 22, I needed more income. I was told that if I had foreign goods, I could sell more and then I would earn more. A woman, new to the area, began targeting me. She asked people in our area about me, she had found out that my husband had just died. She recruited me. I was told we were going to Egypt to buy goods and that we would be back in two weeks. She collected money for a passport and a ticket from me. I ended up giving her 228,000 naira [about £500]. I later found out the passport was fake. I left Nigeria having sold everything, leaving my two-month-old baby with my mother, or what I thought would only be for two weeks. I expected to arrive in Egypt, but I ended up in Libya where I was beaten, stripped naked and threatened that my nude photographs would be sold. My parents are religious, my father is Muslim. I did not want to disappoint him. I was sold like a piece of gold in Libya, an Arab family purchased me, and they beat me and constantly nagged me. Without help from agency X, I would have gone crazy – any noise triggers fears.
Narrative provided by ICAI