A protester holds a sign-board during an anti-slavery demonstration outside the Embassy of Libya in London, United Kingdom on November 26, 2017 to protest the human rights violations in Libya. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Following the disturbing reports on the sale of African citizens as slaves in Libya, ActionAid International has called on the African Union (AU) to stop the trade immediately.

In a letter sent to the Chair of the AU, Moussa Faki Mahamat, ActionAid International demanded that the AU:

  • Condemn the enslavement of African citizens in Libya in no uncertain terms.
  • Request each African government to immediately begin to identify, register and track their citizens in and across Libya and Europe as a first step to releasing them from physical or economic captivity and bondage and bring them home as free citizens.
  • Apply sanctions on the Government of Libya by immediately suspending Libya from being a member of the AU until all captive and bonded persons within the soils of Libya are released.
  • Develop a clear strategy for the rehabilitation of returnees in their respective countries.
  • Develop a clear strategy to reach more young men and women with programmes that protect all their human rights and guarantees them safety and security.
  • Provide appropriate information and an open process for migration to their citizens who want to migrate.
  • Take immediate steps to work with IOM, Italy and other European countries to protect the human rights of all migrants.

This slave trade has a particular impact on young people, as they are the ones who are making the perilous journeys to Europe in search of better opportunities.

Approximately 65% of Africa’s population of 1 billion are under the age of 35. Many governments and leaders say they are prioritizing young people.

Indeed, the African Union’s theme for 2017 is ‘Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth.’

Jemal Ahmed, Regional Director for East and Southern Africa at ActionAid said, “Tragically, many sub-Saharan young people are increasingly getting ensnared in the slave trade in Libya in search of better opportunities in Europe.

“It is a real irony that while governments often claim they prioritize youth, the continent is faced with Libyan slavery and slave trade challenges.”

Ojobo Atuluku, Regional Director for West and Central Africa, ActionAid, said, “The extreme injustices meted out on the migrants who are using the country as a transit zone to Europe is unacceptable. Slavery and the slave trade are an outrage.

“We would like to appeal to the AU to go beyond rhetoric and intervene to put an end to the tragic and horrible injustices occurring in Libya.”

Funmilayo Oyefusi, Interim Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria added that “the high number of Nigerian youths amongst the evacuated populations has made it evident, more than ever, that the government needs to take urgent practical steps to restore the confidence of youths in the Nigerian state through sustainable empowerment programmes. The increasing number of graduates competing for scarce employment opportunities coupled with the continuous brain drain of the Nation’s best human capital has continuously widened the poverty gap and makes one wonder what the future holds”.