War, terror, and modern slavery in Libya

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Slave market in Libya


Libya continues to make regular appearances in the media since 2011, the year of the liquidation of its now-defunct "guide" Colonel Gaddafi by the forces of Nato (France, UK and USA): "This poor Libya, that the Franco-British war of 2011 has transformed into a paradise for the terrorists of Isis and al-Qaida… The trafficking of arms, drugs and migrants proliferates throughout and rarely comes into conflict with the jihadists. This isn't surprising given that they are fellow businessmen"[1]. It was in the name of "the protection of civilians", after the passing of the "Arab Spring" in Libya (brutally repressed by the ex-dictator), that the western powers declared war on the Libyan leader. Having bombed the population and killed Gaddafi, they left the country in the hands of multiple bloody militias who are still fighting over the moribund Libyan state.

A country preyed upon by chaos

"The fighting rumbles on at the ports of Tripoli, from the regional ‘Godfathers’ feeding the flames to the belligerents stoking up hatred with their propaganda. Since April 4, when the troops of Marshall Haftar attacked Tripoli, the flames of war have been re-ignited in Libya. Eight years after the anti-Gaddafi insurrection (supported by Nato air-strikes) and five years after the civil war of 2014, the giant of North Africa is once again falling into chaos, instability and the risk of extremism (...). It's back to square one".[2]

Today, among the dozen or so militias on the ground, the two most important factions aiming for the status of middle-men with the big powers and the UN are: the "Government of National Accord" (GNA) led by Faise Sarraj, designated by the UN and supported by Turkey and Qatar and the government of the eastern coastal Cyrenaica region, the "Libyan National Army" (ANL) led by Khalifa Haftar who is supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to which can be added (on the quiet), France, Russia and the United States; whereas the government of ex-colonial power Italy supports one or the other faction dependent on the control that they have on the ground, as it did in October when it renewed a contemptible agreement for the formation of Libyan coastguards to hunt down migrants.

Britain, which has done as much as anyone in bringing chaos and destruction to this territory, has been sidelined somewhat and doesn't seem to favour the involvement of Saudi and UAE here at all. Rather it backs Qatar and its Muslim Brotherhood. Britain has maintained its links with the Manchester based, al-Qaida-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) that travels back and forth under British protection not only to Libya but also to Afghanistan and Syria. It was an element of this jihadi group who is on trial for carrying out the Ariane Grande concert bombing in Manchester, 2017. Along with "aid", the British government, in the form of then Foreign Secretary (and, at the time of writing, Prime Minister) Boris Johnson, committed itself to "fighting terrorism" in Libya in 2017.

In reality, “every man for himself” and hypocrisy dominate the situation and the barbaric spectacle reveals the lying and abject attitude of the major powers that are playing a double game, like the British, and the French government caught red-handed when it shamelessly lied about the missiles provided by its secret services to Marshall Haftar while affirming that "France is in Libya to fight terrorism".

As for the two Libyan war chiefs, their objectives are also villainous: "Thus, standing face to face, the two camps will never dare to admit the truth of their confrontation. The emphatic recourse to rhetorical justification, using terms like ‘revolution’ or ‘anti-terrorism’ cannot cover up the stark character of a rivalry around the appropriation of resources which takes on a very particular sense in this old oil Eldorado which is Libya. Despite some setbacks caused by post-2011 chaos, Libyan oil continues to generate revenues of $70 million (62.5 million euros) per day. Also, control over the lucrative distribution networks sharpens these antagonisms still more"[3]. This is another aspect of the conflict which none of the leaders of the capitalist world talk about in their official speeches! This race to loot oil, opened up by the chaos of 2011, puts a great number of gangsters small and large, local and international, on Libyan soil.

Worse still, for the major capitalist vultures, Libya represents another unmentionable interest: the existence, on their initiative, of the monstrous "camps of welcome" for frustrated migrants or those on stopover waiting for an imaginary boat to take them to Europe.

The political depravity of the European Union in Libya

Further to the bloody chaos provoked by the major imperialist powers, Libya has become a real "market" and cemetery for migrants for which the EU is responsible. Images of a slave market in Libya were broadcast by CNN on November 14 2017, showing human beings auctioned off and sold like beasts. The migrants, whose numbers vary between 700,000 and one million, fall into the traps of the criminal networks and traffickers, with whom the European and African states are accomplices. "What's happening in Libya, a country without leadership and run by armed militias, is a tragedy to which the European Union closes its eyes. African leaders, having opted for hypocrisy, follow the Europeans like sheep. The report by CNN won't change much of the situation on the ground in Tripoli, Misrata, Benghazi or Tobruk. In a country devastated by civil war, exploding inflation, a ruined economy where the massive execution of prisoners is practiced, almost everyone works either in the business of contraband and collaboration with the smugglers, or in the fight against contraband and smugglers. The report shows a case of servitude linked to the settlement of debt, but a great number of migrants sold at auction in Libya are detained in the framework of trafficking linked to the payment of ransoms. With the closure of the Libyan route leading to Italy, Sub-Saharan migrants often find themselves cornered with no means to pay the price demanded to return to their homes. The smugglers then sell them to the highest bidder - a militia for example. The buyers then contact their families to demand a ransom which goes from 2000 to 3000 dinars (1200 to 1800 euros) per person”[4]. According to a report published by UNICEF: "The detention centres run by the militias are nothing other than forced work camps, prisons where everyone is robbed under armed force. For the millions of women and children, life in prison consists of rape and violence, sexual exploitation, hunger and endless abuse".

All this illustrates the breadth of the capitalist barbarity that directly implicates the major imperialist powers which, through their policies, are throwing the migrants into the arms of slave-traders from another era. The EU effectively demands that failing and totally corrupt neighbouring states (Niger, Nigeria, etc.,) enact anti-migrant policies through subsidies to build walls and erect death-camps. The EU also takes part in Mafia-type activities and trade between bandits by providing funds and material to the coastguards who are responsible for intercepting migrant vessels and take them to the monstrous detention camps. Today the migrants are still in the same situation of misery, in the middle of the dangers which led them by the million to cross the Mediterranean, as this story shows: "On the beach of Aghir on the island of Djerba, north of Tunisia, there were more bodies than bathers at the beginning of the month. On Monday July 1, a boat sank after leaving the Libyan town of Zuwara, 120 km west of Tripoli with 86 people on board. Three were pulled out alive but the sea took the rest of them. ‘I can't do this any longer. It's just too much’, Chemseddine Marzog, a fisherman who for years has provided a last resting place for the bodies that the sea has thrown up, stated through his anger. ‘I have buried close to 400 bodies and dozens more will arrive in the days to come. It is impossible, it is inhuman and we can't manage alone’, said the desperate guardian of the migrant's cemetery at the town of Zarzis in Tunisia close to the Libyan border”[5].

For some time now the "western democracies" have shut their eyes and turned up their noses faced with this cruel barbarity while continuing their plans for the "security" (i.e., closure) of their borders against "illegal immigrants" while loudly declaring their "universal humanism" and continuing to push forward policies which define their infamous politics[6].

Amina, November 2019


[1]  La Canard Enchaîné (April 24, 2019).

[2]  Le Monde, (May 12-13, 2019).

[3]  Le Monde, (May 3, 2019).

[4]  Courrier international, (December 7-13, 2017).

[5]  Le Monde, July 10, 2019.

[6]  On this matter, we can add that the countries of the EU are not at all alone in their barbaric policies towards migrants. They can also count on their "great friend" and client Saudi Arabia. In fact, Riyadh attacks, imprisons and expels "undesirable" migrants that it finds on its territory. According to The Guardian: "10,00 Ethiopians are expelled each month from Saudi Arabia since 2017, the date which the authorities of this country intensified their merciless campaign to send back migrants who don't have papers. About 300,000 people have been sent back since March this year alone, according to the latest figures from the International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) and special flights of deportation are arriving every week at Addis Ababa international airport (...) Some hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have been deported since the preceding wave of chaotic repression undertaken in 2013-2014". These practices of the bloody Saudi regime towards those fleeing misery and death are a sinister illustration of the fact that all states are participating with the same cynicism in order to assure the perpetration of this dehumanised system.


North Africa