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2020 (Narrative date)

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. 

Abraham chose to travel from Eritrea to Europe through smugglers, however he found himself trafficked by brokers and being locked inside a warehouse and held for ransom for over a year. After being released from the trafficker’s camp, he and two friends, Kidane, and Berhane, decided to cross the sea together.  They were put out to sea in an old wooden boat that was leaking. They were three days at sea, with no food and no water to drink. Some of the passengers died. Today, the three friends are earnestly advising other people not to go on this dangerous journey. They say enough is enough, irregular travel through Libya should stop now. 

It was extremely difficult. We travelled for three days without food and water. It was hot and dusty, but also cold. There is nobody at all in the Sahara.  

I want to tell people, don’t think that Libya is good! There are bandits there. It's a matter of luck whether you get out of there, even if you paid. It's agonising. You can be stuck there for two years. They’d send you back in mid-journey and tell you to pay again. We’ve seen how bad Libya is. I was there for a year and five months inside a warehouse. We were given good once a day. 

When we arrived in Libya, they told me to pay USD 1,600. I couldn’t pay that much money. They were torturing us. They were dropping hot melted plastic on our backs, beating us with plastic rods, to make us pay. In the end, when it’s paid, they demand another USD 2,400 for crossing the sea.  


Once we arrived at the coast to get on the boats bandits showed up twice and started shooting and told us to pay, but we couldn’t pay.  


So, generally dear brothers, I want to say enough is enough. 

What I want to say is, those who are in Egypt, Sudan or Ethiopia, when they see those in Europe taking pictures on or next to a motorbike and next to a car which is not theirs. Taking pictures next to a car as if they won it, as if they might be able to own it. I can see them on Facebook and TikTok. What I want to tell them is please, that’s enough! 


Narrative produced by Telling the Real Story, an initiative facilitated by UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency