Africans from Nigeria and Ghana—and not only Arabs—are actively running the slave trade in Libya, a former slave who escaped their clutches and fled back home, has revealed.
According to a report in the Nigerian Vanguard news service, the slave trade and human trafficking in Libya “is being carried out by many nationalities, including Nigerians and Ghanaians, according to a Cameroonian returnee, who was abducted in the country.”
Quoting one Foka Fotsi, who was trafficked twice, the report reveals that those in charge of one of the places where he was held captive included Ghanaians and Nigerians.
Fotsi’s story “corroborated another testimony by a Nigerian in the southern state of Edo, who identified one Charles, a Nigerian as the trafficking kingpin,” the report continued.
Fotsi decided into try and invade Europe last year, and left his native Cameroon to try his luck pretending to be a “refugee,” but, once he made it as far as Libya, he “fell into the hands of a Libyan kidnap ring.”
“There was torture like I’ve never seen,” Fotsi said. “They hit you with wooden bats, with iron bars. They hang you from the ceiling by (your) arms and legs and then throw you down to the floor. They swing you and throw you against the wall, over and over again, ten times. They are not human beings. They are the devil personified.”
Christelle Timdi, another Cameroonian invader pretending to be a refugee recounted her experience in Libya. She said that when “uniformed men boarded the overloaded rubber dingy carrying her and her boyfriend to a new life in Europe, she thought the Italian coastguard had come to rescue them.”
But, she said, instead, the “men took out guns and began to shoot.”
Timdi and her fellow invaders were taken back to Libya where they were locked up, raped, beaten and forced to make calls to their families back home for ransom payments to secure their freedom.
She confirmed earlier reports about the slave markets in Libya. “I saw it with my own eyes,” she said, describing how she had seen a Senegalese man buying an African.
Timdi said many traffickers posed as marine guards, police officers and taxi drivers to ensnare victims. There were around 130 other invaders on her boat when the gunmen opened fire in the middle of the night, Timdi said.
She added that the facilities used by traffickers appeared to be well organized and guarded, and that most of the people inside wore fake police or military uniforms.
“The place was surrounded by army-style vehicles with guns ready to fire, so we didn’t dare try and escape.” Timdi’s family paid 1 million CFA francs ($1,800) to free her.
But she said ransoms were no guarantee of safety. The traffickers work with a network of taxi drivers who are supposed to transfer released Africans, but who often re-traffick them.
“If they send you a good taxi, you’ll arrive at your destination, but if it’s a bad taxi the driver will sell you on to someone else,” she said. “There are people who have been resold twice, three times. And when you call your family to tell them that you’ve been resold once again, no one will believe you, they won’t send more money to free you.”
Both Timdi and Fotsi were among 250 Cameroonians who were flown home this week by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as part of a voluntary return scheme for the invaders in in Libya. The program, funded by the European Union, provided returnees with clothing and medical checks. The “most vulnerable,” including pregnant women, also received around 400 euros ($475).