Photo credit: UNHCR

Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel stated: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Photo credit: UNHCR

“Arbeit Macht Frei” means work will set you free. This was the ominous sign hanging outside the entrance of notorious concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Detention centers which were kept in the most deplorable conditions housed human beings. Infamous Auschwitz physician Dr. Mengele performed grotesque operations on human subjects; procedures that defiled his subjects, their bodies and often resulted in death. Solemnly, the image of mass graves is synonymous with the Holocaust and etched into history as a beacon that one cannot forget, lest it occurs again.

Thousands of migrants are rounded up and placed in detention centers for their “own protection” where they are beaten mercilessly and left without proper nutrients, water or access to medicine. Migrants are pervasively sold as slave labor or required to work to pay for their journey across Libya… Yes, Libya in 2018 is reminiscent of 1942 Nazi Germany.

Libyan detention centers do not uphold international human rights standards.

According to a report released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), in one center, more than 200 men were held in a room that could reasonably hold less than 40. In another report, released by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), medics treat more than one thousand detainees a month for diseases such as respiratory tract infections, acute watery diarrhea, skin diseases and urinary tract infections caused or aggravated by the conditions inside the detention centers. An Italian journalist joined UNICEF to tour four detention centers and was informed by guards that 13 migrants had frozen to death the week before.

Migrants at a detention center in Zawiyah, Libya. Photo Credit:

In January 2017, the UNHCR identified 34 detention centers in Libya, holding between 4,000 and 7,000 detainees, of which 24 are run by the Libyan government. That amounts to potentially a quarter of a million people, of which at least 10 percent are unaccompanied minors, susceptible to being detained indefinitely without due process, tortured, sold as slaves and/or killed arbitrarily. This doesn’t include the makeshift detention centers in the form of old warehouses and abandoned buildings or the personal prisons that some private citizens have created in their homes.

The treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe claims the lives of many migrants as well. Small floating vessels that carry 120 people at a time are not equipped to take the migrants to their intended destination of Europe. Instead, the Libyan Coast Guard, Italian Coast Guard or NGOs will have to rescue the migrants.

Unfortunately, those who are “rescued” by the Italian-funded Libyan Coast Guard are sent to the aforementioned detention centers. For those who are not rescued, there is a likelihood that they will drown at sea. According to migrant testimony, bodies are brought to shore and plundered of their organs. In an article published by Newsweek, some migrants have allegedly had their organs removed while alive to be sold for profit.

Photo credit: Daily Mail

Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel stated: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

To combat the slave trade in Libya, provides a comprehensive list of things people can do. Support the International Organization for Migration. Donate to organizations that help refugees such as the Free the Slaves or the Polaris Project. Look for items with fair trade certifications when making purchases. Lastly, use your voice, spread awareness, share this article and take a stand!

The opinions, content and/or information in this article are those of the author and are independent of BK Reader.

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  1. To the author: Neutral- “Out of sight out of mind” …
    I appreciate your efforts to spread awareness about “crimes against himanity”. I also appreciate your call to action which gives us no excuse to ignorantly standby. Thank you for providing the information necessary for people to contribute atleast the bare minimum in efforts to support combatting the slave trade in Libya.

  2. This is a very informative article.
    Human suffering is too often overlooked. African suffering is too often normalized. Thank you for saying all suffering must end.

  3. What a powerful call to action article. Thank you for providing us with the important information to help fight the evil of slave trade in Libya.

  4. Wow, I was not informed of all of this. We must see that slavery did not just end with the civil war in 1865. Only by being aware of what is happening in our world can we make sure human beings treat our fellow people as human beings. If all human suffering is ended this year, it can be restarted next year if we are not careful.

  5. I want to pursue the recommended action steps and also become knowledgeable about what is going on in Libya that has lead to such extreme human rights abuses. It disgusts me that organs are being taken from drowning victims, indeed reminiscent of Mengele who victimized “subjects” who were helpless to defend themselves. Your thoughtful column also reminds me of the Rohingya being ethnically cleansed from Myanamar. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

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