If you’ve spent any length of time on the internet over the past few days, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen coverage on the horrors happening in Libya. #LibyaSlaveTrade is trending on Twitter and Instagram as people have taken to social media to voice their outrage. Reading the articles and seeing the pictures currently swamping my feed has left me feeling helpless; I’ve been going through a lot of information trying to find out everything I can about what is actually going on, for how long, and what we can do to help stop it—and it makes me want to curl up into a ball on the sofa and cry. But that’s not going to help. What will help is if we get loud.
The atrocities happening in Libya came to light when a CNN team traveled to Tripoli to investigate reports of human trafficking—and that’s exactly what they found. The team witnessed a dozen men being auctioned off for as little as $400, and were informed that there were more, similar auctions taking place at nine locations across the country.
On November 14 they published an exclusive report exposing the flourishing slave trade. They also alerted Libyan authorities and handed their footage over to the International Criminal Court as evidence.
On November 17 Libya opened an investigation into slave markets operating in their country. This investigation is being overseen by the Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency, however the IOM (the International Organization for Migration) has warned that the smuggling networks are becoming more organized and better equipped.
In Paris on November 19, protesters gathered by the Libyan embassy to urge authorities to take swift action, and instead of celebrating a goal for Manchester United, Paul Pogba raised a handcuff gesture in an attempt to highlight the situation in Libya. The following day, Alpha Conde and Antonio Guterres both released statements condemning human trafficking; but despite multiple agencies working to address violations against illegal immigrants and calls for their home countries to take action, the repatriation of migrants from Libya is proving to be a difficult process.
On November 22 Emmanuel Macron released a statement vowing to press sanctions, and called an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council, where diplomats then called for an investigation that would hold the perpetrators of the slave auctions in Libya accountable.
There are dozens of articles whirling around about this right now, and with so much information available, regurgitating a New York Times story isn’t going to give you anything new. With that said, what I did have a harder time finding were ways that we, the onlookers, could do something to help. I did manage to round up a few, so if you’re feeling powerless, here is a place to start:
- Support the IOM and the UNHCR (The U.N. Refugee Agency).
- The IOM is pushing Libyan authorities to develop alternatives to the migrant detention centers, where the detained are often exploited; as well as to hold those convicted of abusing or enslaving migrants accountable. You can donate to this organization here.
- The UNHCR is focused on helping the estimated 1.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya, from resolving the current complex displacement scenario to providing assistance and protection to the migrants and refugees tackling the dangerous routes towards Europe. You can find more information on this organization here.
- Start contacting social media companies.
- Smugglers often use social media tools such as Facebook Live to send videos to migrants’ families in order to extort money. The IOM is already asking them to be more vigilant and control the use of their services—write in to Facebook and echo those requests. There is strength in numbers.
- Get to the root of it.
- The U.N. Secretary General refers to poverty as one of the root causes of human trafficking. Donate to aid organizations such as Oxfam and World Food Program.
- Advocate for the U.S. and the U.N. to take a firm stance on investigating, condemning, and eradicating the Libyan slave trade.
- On Tuesday a U.N. Security Council meeting called for an investigation into the Libyan slave trade and a coordinated U.N. response to their findings. However, it is imperative that we put pressure on the U.N. to follow through with this. This is not something that we can allow to be swept under the rug after the initial momentum begins to wane. You can get typing here.
- Get LOUD, people.
- We spend so much time on social media and tapping away on our phones—use it as a way to get other people involved. Make sure your friends and family are educated about what is happening and how they can help. Share the issue on your platforms and tag our president, members of congress, the U.N., and other non-governmental organizations—hopefully this will spark even more people to share and those in the positions of power will be forced to take more notice. As Americans, we have so much privilege and power that I don’t even think we realize we take for granted. These people have been stripped of their voices, and it’s on us to use ours to help.
With the constant bombardment of issues in our own country, it’s easy to become sucked in. But while the idea of securing your own air mask before assisting anyone else is all well and good in the event of a plane crash or even your personal life, it is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. We have so much access to all of the atrocities happening across the globe that it’s easy to become numb to it, to justify it as less important than the things that will affect us personally. We can’t do that anymore. This is disgusting. This should hurt. This is unacceptable—and if we let this go, then we have become a part of the problem.