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Slavery in Libya organised by ‘fixers’ – Research Tilburg University confirms CNN reports

Pressrelease 1-12-2017 - Academic researchers of Tilburg University come to the conclusion that slavery in Libya is part of a large organisation of human trafficking in which ‘fixers’ collaborate with some high officials in Africa and in Europe. CNN reported two weeks ago that Africans are auctioned in Libya.

In the last months the researchers have carried out 50 interviews with refugees held in Libya, to examine how the situation in Libya is evolving. They found that in Sebratha (near Tripoli) there are 1.500 Eritrean refugees in one detention centre only. The researchers estimate - based on what they have been able to map, that 10.000 Eritreans are held in different detention centres in Libya. The detention centres consist of ship-containers which hold 160 people in one container. Most of the victims suffer from diarrhoea, skin disease, and there are many women with children and unaccompanied minors. They receive no medical treatment.

The researchers concluded that the situation in Libya is part of a much larger network of trade and enslavement. In a book published in March 2017 the researchers warned for excesses in Libya, as trafficking for ransom had expanded from Egypt to Sudan into Libya. From interviews with refugees held in detention in Libya the researchers found that competing networks were forcing refugees to beg for ransom, and that sexual violence is rampant.

“A new form of trafficking for ransom has developed in recent years”, concluded prof. International Relations, Innovation and Care Mirjam van Reisen, who leads the research, “Refugees are sold and resold, while they are forced to beg relatives all over the world on mobile phones to send money to try and free them. Ransoms go up to thousands of dollars. In Europe refugees are forced to contribute to payments of such ransoms in order to help liberate those held in Libya and Sudan. Some fixers are collaborating with parts of governments.”

Trafficking stopped in Sinai, spreads to Sudan and Libya

“From the interviews we understand that the refugees are desperate and are seriously traumatised.” concludes Meron Estefanos, who carried out a majority of the interviews. “A majority of the refugees in Libya have fled Eritrea. They fear being deported. In Eritrea they fear for their live. In each group there are at least 6 or 7 Eritrean refugees who are so mentally disturbed that they can no longer hold a conversation, the researchers found.”

This practice earlier led to auctions of refugees in Sinai (Egypt), as published by the researchers in 2014. The researchers found that after the practice was stopped in Sinai, it rapidly spread across the region to Sudan and Libya. According to the researchers the same facilitators and fixers of the trade in persons were involved.

 

Note to the press

For more information please contact prof. Mirjam van Reisen, tel. 0032479468690

See for the reports:

Van Reisen, M. & Mawere, M. Human Trafficking and Trauma in the Digital Era.

The human trafficking cycle: Sinai and beyond