The Auction That Shook the World

libya

by Jennifer Taylor

 
"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." - Lucky Akhanene

When you think of a slave auction, you probably think of it as an evil practice that took place almost two hundred years ago. However, in October 2017, the CNN news team recorded a live slave auction being conducted in Tripoli, Libya.

The world was stunned and the outrage was justified. How could this still be happening in 2017?! The sobering reality is that slavery is still prevalent in today’s world and men, women, and children are being harshly exploited for the profit of others. It is a reality that is multifaceted and entrenched in many societies around the world and the latest wakeup call for the international community, illuminating the complexities of modern-day slavery, also known as, human trafficking.

Why is this happening?

  • Libya is largely considered a “fail state”.  After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the country descended into civil war. The horrific side effect of ongoing civil war is crippling poverty, lawlessness, and in this case, a devastating migrant and refugee crisis. It has turned into a hotspot for serious human rights violations.
  • Despite creating a transitional government in Libya, it has failed to implement rule of law in the country paving the way for the emergence of militias, tribes, and gangs far from governmental influence. As in many vulnerable countries, slavery thrives as many see it as a lucrative industry targeting the most impoverished and marginalized communities.

  • Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea with over 450,000 people making the perilous journey to their Promised Land. Within the last fours years, 15,000 refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Many of those being exploited are from West Africa- especially Nigeria, Algeria, Niger, Sudan, and Ethiopia- escaping insurmountable and traumatic domestic hardships including poverty, wars, and human trafficking.

  • With estimates of 400,000 to almost ONE MILLION people now trapped in Libya, detention centers are overcrowded. Conditions in the centers have been described as “horrific.” There are countless reports of robbery, rape, and murder among migrants and refugees, according to a September report by the U.N. Human Rights Agency. Because of the backlog of people attempting to reach Europe, smugglers have converted into slave traders auctioning off migrants and refugees into forced labor. While in captivity, they have been beaten and tortured on film; the tapes were then sent to families demanding ransom for their freedom.

“They will call you from prison and ask you to call your people in Nigeria to send money for them to release you. Even if you succeed in getting money from Nigeria, they still would not let you go.” - Mr. Harrison Okotie
  • Europe has a large role to play in the heartbreaking conditions that have led to black Africans being sold as commodities in Libya. The European Union partly funds the Libyan Coast Guard enabling them to limit the crossing of refugees and migrants.  A recent report by Amnesty International, called “Libya’s Dark Web Collusion,” describes European governments being “knowingly complicit in the torture and abuses of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities …by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya.”

What is being done?

The Libyan government has stated that they are conducting formal investigations into the allegations. Libya reached an agreement with European Union and African leaders to allow an emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants who are being abused in detention centers. The government also agreed to open a transit center safely housing vulnerable refugees before they either resettle or are transported to a third country, according to Reuters.

BBC News reports that African and European leaders discussed urgent action at a summit in the Ivory Coast. This action includes an emergency evacuation plan for 15,000 people in Libya; most will be returned to their home countries. In addition to the evacuation plan, the deal included launching a task force targeting traffickers and a “concrete military and policing action on the ground to dismantle those networks.

The international community has been vocal in its condemnation of the atrocities in Libya. The UN has urged the Libyan government to take immediate action:

"The government and the international community, particularly the EU, which is the destination of most of the migrants, must take immediate and decisive action to ensure that this crime does not continue. They must also urgently prioritize the release of all those people who have been enslaved. Enslavement is most often an extreme form of racial discrimination," the panel added. "It is a dangerous trend that European states are shifting responsibility for migrants to African countries instead of creating regular, safe, affordable and accessible channels for them," the panel said. "Any agreement reached with the Libyan authorities needs to be in line with international human rights standards. European states can be held accountable for any human rights violations migrants are subject to."

Hashtags were created; petitions drafted, and protests ensued. However, despite the global outcry for intervention, there hasn’t been much progress. There have been raids of warehouses and the deportation of migrants back to their home country; however, none of these are sustainable solutions. There is a general consensus that in order to truly stop the enslavement of migrants and refugees, we must address the underlying forces that have made Libya a breeding ground for it. In other words, to cut the root of slavery, you need the proper knife.

What can WE do?

Combating the slave trade in Libya seems daunting especially when analyzing the intersectionalities of poverty, race, and violence; however, we can play a part in dismantling the systems that serve as the engine that fuels this atrocity against humanity.

A call to PRAY 

  • The evil of modern-day slavery is rooted in extreme poverty, greed, racism, classism, sexism and patriarchy, unstable governments, and lack of access to services facilitating upward mobility (education, healthcare, vocational, etc.,).  Pray for the many countries where this practice still exists. Pray that God will raise up effective and compassionate leaders who will make and enforce laws against human rights violations, including slavery. Pray that leaders will work tirelessly to address the underlying causes of oppression. Pray for the release of the millions of people who were captured and sold into slavery. Pray for their strength, faith, hope, grace, and perseverance.  Pray for the conviction of the captors, smugglers, slave traders, and anyone involved with enslaving migrants and refugees in Libya. 

A call to ACT:

There is a multitude of ways to actively combat slavery, here are some:

  • Spread the news! In an age of technology and globalization, it is so easy to share a social media post or article.  Share this article to let your network know what is happening in Libya and how they can help.
  • Contact U.S. Representatives and global leaders to demand action. More specifically, contact our U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, here.

  • Support The International Organization for Migration (IOM). They are directly advocating for the protection of migrants’ human rights and preventing them from being exploited by smugglers and slave traders. They do this by demanding Libyan authorities to create alternatives to detention centers as well as develop accountability measures to anyone who abuses or enslaves migrants. Donate to their efforts here.

  • You can help fight one of the root causes of slavery: poverty. There are many global organizations with the mission to end poverty and you can support them by volunteering or donating to organizations such as Save the Children, and the World Food Program. You can also support the United Nations Refugee Agency as they provide direct development support and aid to vulnerable countries and refugees.

  • Contact social media companies like Facebook. According to IOM, smugglers have used Facebook Live as a platform to document the torture of migrants and send them to families for extortion. You can contact Facebook here. 

  • Shop smarter! So this is something we ALL can commit to doing. There are many companies that have been linked to using slave labor for their commercial products such as H&M and Nestle. Becoming aware of which companies produce products that are fair trade and ethically made can be a game changer. Sometimes the best way to fight is to hit the pockets and make a dent in profit sales. End Slavery Now created a  slave-free shopping guide to help you get started.

A call to GIVE:

There are many organizations both faith-based and secular organizations that are on the frontlines of abolition. Here are is a list of some of the organizations you can support:

  • The Polaris Project

  • A21

  • Free the Slaves

  • End Slavery Now

  • International Justice Mission

  • Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking

  • Anti-Slavery International

 

Dreaming of a Better World for Immigrants and Refugees

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

By Jennifer Taylor

#Dreamers are parents, siblings, spouses, and friends who deserve to stay with their loved ones in the only country they call home, the United States. Their livelihoods depend on Congress passing the #DreamAct.” - Senator Dianne Feinstein

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Imagine living in the United States your whole life. You were educated here, your loved ones are here, your job is here, and English is your dominant language. This country is your home as it is the only land and culture you have ever really known. You have not been back to your country of origin since you were a very small child. Now imagine being told that because you were brought here illegally, you have to be deported to that same country; you know the one that you haven’t been to in over a decade; the one where you are unfamiliar with the culture, the people, and perhaps even the language. The place that is a foreign land to you and a distant memory of your past.

It is impossible to reflect on the history of the United States without acknowledging the sacrificial contributions of immigrants, yet it is still considered one of the most controversial topics to discuss both politically and socially. It is an issue that continues to divide this  nation time and time again. Politicians have used the Hispanic community as political leverage to gain power in office making promises around the pathway to the coveted citizenship status in order to garner the Hispanic vote. Over the years, Presidents have enacted and repealed a multitude of policies around immigration that have either empowered or further marginalized those who do not hold the status of U.S. citizen. With the current presidential administration rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act a.k.a DACA or The Dreamer’s Act, it has once again rehashed a heated debate about how to address the overarching immigration process in this country.

Here’s What You Need to Know -- DACA is for those who meet the following criteria:

  • Young people (born on or after June 16, 1981) who came to the U.S. before the age of 16.
  • Don’t have lawful immigration status.

  • Have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

  • At least 15 years old.

  • Currently in school or a graduate of high school or GED recipient or honorably discharged military veteran.

  • Have a clean criminal record and pass a background check. (Source: https://unitedwedream.org/about/projects/deferred-action/)

  • DACA provided a way for youth to stay in the country legally as they obtained renewable work visas which protected them from deportation.

  • Rescinding DACA will impact 800,000 recipients leaving them vulnerable to deportation and family separation.

With the stunning number of recipients, chances are you or someone you know are affected  by the rescindment. Although former President Obama was very clear that it was not a pathway to permanent residency, it did serve as a means to what many hoped was a hopeful end to their journey to eventual citizenship. The current administration has managed to facilitate a school-to –deportation pipeline with the argument that undocumented immigrants are criminals or deviants in our society that must be removed. Where there was hope, now lies fear and outrage.

Time is running out for the Dreamers so the urgency of mobilization has never been so apparent. With the hashtag #DREAMACTNOW, youth around the country are demanding for a new bipartisan Dream Act to ensure their amnesty.

The Bible reminds us to "care about the foreigner" and "care about our neighbors more than ourselves." The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference is one of many faith-led coalitions in this nation that are living out this truth fighting for the rights of the 800,000 immigrants youth who were once protected under DACA. In a world where every domestic and international calamity is reported to us instantaneously (sigh thank you globalization) it can be difficult to pick up the torch and continue an uphill battle even when the cause you are championing is no longer a top headline.

Recognized as one of the nation’s leading advocates for comprehensive immigration reform, the NHCLC has been vocal in its effort to sway the decision of Congress to phase out DACA.  Amongst other actions, they will be temporarily placing staff in Washington D.C. to continue lobbying, they have launched media campaigns, mobilizing tens-of-thousands of the nation’s faith leaders, and continue to coordinate weekly meetings in D.C. as well as other cities around the country.

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, stated that despite the fears experienced by immigrant youth across the country,

“A multi-ethnic coalition of tens-of-millions of law-abiding, U.S. citizens will begin to put unrelenting pressure on of tens-of members of Congress to provide a permanent solution for DREAMers, whose fate is in question by no fault of their own… This is an affront to the sanctity of life, it is inhumane, and the Hispanic community will stand for it no longer. Our elected members of Congress have time and again professed concern for the Hispanic community and yet, have chosen to do nothing. We will not distinguish between Republicans and Democrats but between those who stand for righteousness and justice and those who do not.” [https://nhclc.org/rev-samuel-rodriguez-reacts-to-dacadecision/]

How can you support:

  • PRAY: For softened hearts of the Trump Administration and congress; for supernatural compassion, and wisdom in how to proceed with a more comprehensive act for this special population of immigrants. Pray that God continues to raise up leaders in strength, boldness, and grace to advocate for immigration reform and policies that protect families while empowering young people. Finally, pray for the thousands of Dreamers and their families during this difficult and uncertain time in their lives. If you encounter someone who is affected by DACA, pray that you will respond with love and encouragement.

  • ACT: Contact the Senate, call your representative, or write a letter. It may seem as though it won’t make a difference, but it is actually the contrary. Your voice counts. If you feel led to be a bit more radical, join a march or protest to show your support. Investing time and your personal resources is another great way to support the Dreamers. Try volunteering at an organization that is actively advocating for policy change. There is power in collective action.

  • GIVE: You can support the Protect the Dreamers Campaign and 60 Day Challenge to Congress, please visit https://nomorebrokendreams.org/