Reasons why people choose to migrate from their place of birth to another country vary. For some, migration is for safety reasons and for others migration is the opportunity to make money and support the rest of the family back home.
Sadly, migration to another country is at times at the expense of losing the lives of loved ones. In 2017, The Guardian reported that “More than 22,500 migrants have reportedly died or disappeared globally since 2014 – more than half of them perishing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, according to a study by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).”
Libya is the popular and preferred passage destination for migrants and refugees trying to get to Europe by sea. People from countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Somalia, Eretria and Gambia are amongst those who have lost their lives trying to get into Europe. Over 120,000 people arrived in Europe by sea in 2017– “most departed from Libya bound for Italy, from Turkey bound for Greece or, more recently, from Morocco bound for Spain. About 82% of all migrants were travelling to Italy from Libya.”
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the last three years, 150,000 people (each year) have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey – (Casey Quackenbush. 2017).
Many people to date are still crossing the Mediterranean Sea although aware of the risk associated to it. With Smugglers operating from the Libyan coast offering support to migrants for money, many people are filled with determination and hope to see Europe at the end of their journeys. Some people never see Europe and some are met with unexpected realities of trafficking and slavery.
There have been accounts of Black African slaves circulating in Libya for the past 2 years. Victims who were held at detention centers in Libya following attempts to get into Europe reported that, “We endured physical torture but the mental torture was worse. Our captors would systematically choose people unable to pay to set an example” (Aljazeera) – some others reported that “They give us out to their friends. They don’t pay us. It’s just hard labour; if you’re not fast with your job you get beaten.” Some were forced to work on farm and given food every few days and given sea water to drink.
It is possible that some of these migrants are imported into the UK and other surrounding countries. Modern slavery is still a thriving business in Britain today, with up to 13000 estimated to be victims of trafficking (AntiSlavery.org).
To tackle the issue of slavery in Libya, it has been reported that the Libyan government have launched an investigation into the “allegations”. It has also been reported that Libya has reached a deal with E.U. and African leaders to “allow the emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants facing abuse in its detention centers”. The Libyan government has agreed to launch a transit center for vulnerable refugees.
It is evident that, migration to Europe and other continents Is still an ongoing issue and will likely carry on for many people as long as danger and poverty is common in their countries of origin.
Eugenio Lilli, department of war studies and founding chairman of King’s College US Foreign Policy Research Group stated that “The only way to permanently ease the migrant situation in Europe is to get serious about solving the conflicts that make people flee their home countries in the first place”.
Nick Cowen- PhD candidate, department of political economy stated that “the best way for Europe to help would be to offer immediate legal residency and access to labour markets. It might be politically expedient to restrict access to some welfare benefits but most migrants will be keen to work regardless”.
Finding solution to manage and minimise the death and slavery of vulnerable individuals crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe Is a task for both the government and society.
You can support and raise awareness about this issue by:
- Being informed: Learn about the current issues faced by migrants trying to get into Europe. Learn about slavery and the impact it has (and still having) on people
- Donate to charities supporting victims. Donate your time to help victims of such disasters.
- Spreading the news: Talk about such issues with friends and loved ones, challenge unjust views you may come across or hear, follow news about such matters and use your social media as a platform to help educate others about such issues.
- Be conscious and alert: Know the signs of modern slavery and what to look for, it is very common and could be taking place near you, if you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking or slavery report it to the police by calling 101, 999 in cases of emergency or contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on: 08000 121 700.
References and Further Reading
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7lCbzHGnBQ – YouTube Video Slavery in Libya
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8cg5hhHJlA – YouTube Video- life and death at the Mediterranean Sea.