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December 3, 2017
We, members of various global civil society organizations gathered in Mexico as part of the United Nations Preparatory meeting on the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, call on governments to urgently address the matter of enslaved African migrants in Libya.
Following CNN’s heartbreaking reports and images of the torture and selling of African migrants in Libya, we appreciate the several statements issued by the African Union, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as well as human rights organizations and labor unions calling for immediate and unequivocal action.
Such violence towards vulnerable migrants should not be tolerated a single day more. These news stories bring to mind centuries-old acts of barbaric enslavement of Black people which still evoke painful memories, especially to those of African descent. Throughout history nations and peoples have vowed “never again” to see levels of inhumanity perpetrated towards people least able to resist. Yet, today in 2017 we witness live auctions of human beings which defy any code of basic humanity.
No human being should be subjected to such acts of torture and humiliation. It is dishonest for the Global North to declare 'never again' while simultaneously creating policies that enable institutionalised violence against Africans. Many in Libya are young women who are being subjected to mistreatment and torture, though were not shown in the videos. No matter who is responsible or what the reasons are, this must be brought to immediate end and with full investigations into the matter.
While global attention of this matter is welcome, we are weary that this will be yesterday’s news unless there is active commitment and ongoing follow up.
We call on swift and measured actions to end the situation, but also strongly condemn proposed use of “concrete military and policing actions” to “rescue the migrants” as suggested by the leaders of France, Chad and Libya at the AU-EU Summit in Cote d’Ivoire on November 28, 2017. Military actions are not the appropriate solution to humanitarian crises. They do not address the real cause, and further exacerbate an already highly militarized situation.
European Union border control policy of the past two years has been highly restrictive in order to stop the flow of African migrants across the Mediterranean Sea. Countries like Italy, Germany and France have set up “hotspots” in Niger and Chad to process potential refugees and migrants. These actions are not only against international conventions but also restrict movement which pushes migrants into the hands of smugglers.
Libya is known as smugglers’ paradise. It has become a country with a weak government, virtually no rule of law and is in constant conflict with warring factions. Last year, the Italian government signed a secret agreement with a number of Libyan tribes who monitor the coastlines in return for undisclosed payments. The actions of Libyan militia and smugglers are perpetuated by funds from Europe which further feed into the current chaotic political crisis.
We condemn in the strongest terms the statement French President Macron made during his visit to Burkina Faso last week, that it is Africans who are enslaving Africans. European countries bear responsibility for the policies that directly contribute to what is happening in Libya today. Such statements of blame do not serve any purpose, and in fact lead towards false understanding of what is the core problem.
Finally, we, members of global civil society, express our deepest sadness at the site of such abominable acts of cruelty that are targeting Black migrants and refugees in the region. We stand on the side of peace and justice, recognizing the dignity and sanctity of life and full protection of human rights regardless of status.
We urge government deliberations in the coming days over the Global Compact on Safe, orderly and Regular Migration, to involve members of civil society organizations as important stakeholders in any policy relating to this crisis. As CSOs, from all global regions, we are migrants, refugees, diaspora, academic, women's organisations, faith-based organisations and trade unionists. We live the day to day realities and know the experiences of migrants and can contribute greatly towards shaping more grounded policy recommendations.
Note: This statement was initiated by the Pan African Network in Defense of Migrants’ Rights (PANiDMR) and supported and endorsed by various global civil society organizations present in
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the United Nations-led migration negotiations.
For more information visit www.africamoves.org