Once in a while in all I read to prepare for these pieces, I find myself in disbelief, encountering how evil humans can be. This week it was a story in The Guardian newspaper about what they called Libyan slave markets. Migrants, usually from West Africa, with little or cash and often with no papers, manage to pay people smugglers to get across the desert to the coast. The rescued migrant interviewed for this story tells of a bus ride organized by the smugglers. In the middle of it, the driver saying he had not received his fees, sold those in the bus. They ended up in a public square in the Libyan city of Sabha where what looked to him like Arabs bought them. They were taken to a kind of prison, and made to work for meager rations, while their families were contacted for ransoms. Should they not come through or wait too long, the men were killed and new ones were kidnapped and brought in. The International Organization for Migration, a UN agency, rescues as many as they can, but still many remain and more come. The European Union Trust Fund for Africa was just established with $95 million to help migrants. Efforts ought to be underway to help migrants for example not drown on the Libyan coast. It’s doubtful the slave markets will be dismantled in the near future, still it is possible that its victims may have additional help down the road. But then it would be naïve to assume this is the only such slave market in the region. Not so long ago we heard of those from the Islamic State selling Yazidi women.
We tend to avoid these stories or gloss over them. And yet it is through our knowledge, through our sharing that knowledge that we can be part of the long chain that might make a difference. Things can go viral on the Internet, but before the Internet things spread through word of mouth. Now we can have both, for we must bring attention to those forgotten stories, so that as people become aware of them, they hopefully are touched by the need and are spurred and inspired to take whatever action is possible for them. In that way we can be more active participants through our voice and our vote giving where we can, yes but also influencing governments to understand the need to fund international agencies. It is particularly relevant these days when the tide is against such funding in the US. A NYT editorial asks that foreign aid to Africa must continue, that funding of the UN and its agencies must continue, and so must we.