Nearly two months after reports emerged showing African migrants sold out as slaves in Libya, the African Union launched a repatriation operation that saw 13,000 migrants return to their homelands since last December.
Speaking to the press, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mahamat Faki, noted that the number is still below the goal set by the Pan-African organization to airlift 20,000 migrants out of war-torn Libya by mid-January.
He said the operation is on course “although with a bit of delay. Already more than two-thirds… have been repatriated.”
Libya collapsed into violent chaos after the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muamar Gaddafi, with a myriad of militias and several jihadist groups battling for influence.
The dire situation of migrants in Libya came under the spot-light late last year after CNN aired a shocking video footage showing Sub-Saharans being sold at an auction in slave markets in Libya. The video, showing migrants referred to as “merchandise” sold off for $400, triggered a global outrage.
The appalling video footage prompted the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union, during the EU-AU summit held in Abidjan end of November, to put in place a joint Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.
The three organizations discussed concrete steps to address jointly the dramatic situation of migrants and refugees, victims of criminal networks, in particular inside Libya.
Estimates from the United Nations put the number of migrants in Libya at 700,000. For years, migrants crossing the Mediterranean have brought with them stories of beatings, kidnapping and enslavement.