4:50 pm - Sunday October 20, 2019

‘I Was Captured, SOLD for $400 in Libya and saw HELL’-JUDE IKUENOBE, true story of a Nigerian from Benin City trapped in Sahara desert, divinely saved by God …Thousands of Africans hoping for a better in Europe are sold for $400 each * Hundreds of thousands are detained indefinitely, spend years working for arbitrary sums or without pay * We are at constant risk of being kidnapped, sold, and auctioned from one militia to another * Fewer people are making it to Europe, but more are dying, disappearing or being abused * “In Sabha, every black man is a target . We black in Libya are money to Arabs. The minute they get us, they can sell us. If they are coming, just run. Run for your life,”lament Ikuenobe BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF


‘I Was Captured, SOLD for $400 in Libya and saw HELL’-JUDE IKUENOBE, true story of a Nigerian from Benin City trapped in Sahara desert, divinely saved by God

…Thousands of Africans hoping for a better in Europe are sold for $400 each

* Hundreds of thousands are detained indefinitely, spend years working for arbitrary sums or without pay

* We are at constant risk of being kidnapped, sold, and auctioned from one militia to another

* Fewer people are making it to Europe, but more are dying, disappearing or being abused

* “In Sabha, every black man is a target . We black in Libya are money to Arabs. The minute they get us, they can sell us. If they are coming, just run. Run for your life,”lament Ikuenobe

BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF

IT IS A TRUE LIFE STORY OF JUDE IKUENOBE, A NIGERIAN BORN IN THE ANCIENT CITY OF BENIN, EDO STATE. I search of greener pasture to Europe, he had embarked on a tortuous journey through Sahara desert to Libya thinking he could connect into Italy or Spain and make his dream of ‘migrating Abroad’ a reality. The event that followed turned his dream into mirage after-all. He was eventually saved by divine hands of God, as he narrowly escaped losing his life in the journey. He lucidly states how he was sold for $400 to an Arabic man.

Slavery is thriving in Libya, where thousands of black Africans hoping to get to Europe instead find themselves bought and sold, forced to work for nothing, and facing torture at the hands of their owners. Under the Libyan desert sun, the highway stretching behind Ikuenobe was so hot it shimmered in the distance. Nobody’s there, he tried to reassure himself for the tenth time since he had stepped out a few minutes earlier in search of water, along with three of his friends. The sandy side streets were deserted, every shop and café shuttered. It was a Friday afternoon, which meant even the armed militias who ruled Sabha, a sprawling oasis city 480 miles inland from the coastal capital, had filed to mosques for the most important weekly prayers. Ikuenobe felt like he was running through quicksand. As the car sped closer, he knew a single misstep could mean being gunned down and dying anonymously in the street.

His words:In Sabha, every black man is a target . We black in Libya — we’re money to Arabs. The minute they get us, they can sell us. If they are coming, just run. Run for your life.”

Ikuenobe ran, and kept running even as there was a screech of tires, the smell of burning rubber, and a volley of gunshots. He kept running as one of his friends hit the ground with a thud. He ran until his legs gave way in an unpaved alleyway, and he collapsed onto the sandy ground, drenched in fear and sweat.It took him several hours, on shaky legs through labyrinthine back roads, to slip back into the walled compound where he had spent the last three weeks. The building was no sanctuary, and Ikuenobe knew the owner of the compound would dole out a vicious beating, but he had nowhere else to go.

Slavery typically conjures up images of ships transporting black Africans across the Atlantic, or the death marches of the trans-Saharan slave trade. But this modern-day version has added a cruel twist — this time, people from sub-Saharan Africa are often selling themselves into slavery; believing they are buying a ticket from a life of conflict, poverty or repression to a glittering future in Europe. In a grim irony, the very policies of a European Union that is hardening itself against immigration are largely responsible not only for preventing people from reaching the continent, but their becoming enslaved and dying in their attempts to escape.

Few places could be further from the promised land than current-day Libya, where tens of thousands are detained indefinitely, spend years working for arbitrary sums or without pay altogether, and are at constant risk of being kidnapped, sold, and auctioned from one militia to another. In a country where chaos is the rule, some experts argue that such treatment doesn’t amount to slavery, a view that downplays the racism underlying the situation.

Ikuenobe had ended up trapped in Libya after leaving his hometown of Benin City, a verdant city of low-rise buildings in southwestern Nigeria, in search of a better life in Europe. He had planned for a two-week journey northward across the Sahara desert into Libya, from where he would set off in a boat across the Mediterranean. Instead, he found himself spending more than two years trying to survive in the underbelly of modern-day slavery.

Starting in 2014, images of desperate people crammed onto boats as they tried to cross the Mediterranean began to appear on TV screens. The “migrant crisis” soon upended European politics, unleashing a wave of far-right populism and anti-migrant rhetoric.

The European Union began pulling up the drawbridge, and debates flared up around the legality and morality of its “stop the boats” policy. But its darkest consequences were often erased from the narrative: the tens of thousands of black Africans entrapped in a growing slave market.

In November last year, a video that could have been lifted from a 300-year-old time capsule went viral. On grainy cellphone footage obtained by Cable News Network, CNN , a group of black Africans were shown being auctioned as slaves somewhere in Tripoli, Libya’s capital. Offscreen, a slave trader repeatedly emphasized the strength of the black men for sale: “This is a digger, a big strong man,” he said, a proprietorial hand on another man’s shoulder. A Nigerian man in his twenties, his eyes blank with fear, was offered as part of a group of “big strong boys for farm work.” The men were sold for $400 each.

For the records, fewer people are making it to Europe, but more are dying, disappearing or being abused.

Filed in: Crime

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