Lib­er­at­ing African slaves – again

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The dis­cov­ery of a slave auc­tion in Libya has stirred both Euro­pean and African lead­ers into ac­tion. Now they must deal with the men­tal chains that pushed African mi­grants into the clutches of smug­glers.

Many school­child­ren in Africa have been taught about the his­tory of the slave trade and how it ended with a uni­ver­sal ap­pre­ci­a­tion of hu­man rights. Those lessons must have been very much in thought dur­ing a sum­mit of 83 heads of state from Europe and Africa on Nov. 29-30. The gath­er­ing was set to fo­cus on youth de­vel­op­ment in Africa. In­stead, it turned into emer­gency plan­ning to end the open buy­ing and sell­ing of slaves in Libya.

Many African lead­ers have been in shock in re­cent days af­ter a CNN video showed a slave auc­tion in Libya run by smug­glers tak­ing ad­van­tage of mi­grants try­ing to reach Europe. The slaves were be­ing sold for as lit­tle as $400, ei­ther to be ex­ploited as day la­bor­ers or used to ex­tract ran­som pay­ments from their fam­i­lies back home. “Some Nige­ri­ans were be­ing sold like goats,” said Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari.

At least 400,000 African mi­grants are liv­ing in dozens of re­pres­sive camps in Libya hop­ing to make the dan­ger­ous cross­ing of the Mediter­ranean. But they’ve been blocked by ef­forts of the Euro­pean Union and the Libyan Coast Guard to make the cross­ing. Many EU lead­ers, wor­ried about the rise of anti-im­mi­gra­tion sen­ti­ments in their coun­tries, are des­per­ate to cut off the flow of Africans to the Con­ti­nent.

Thank­fully, both the EU and African lead­ers meet­ing in Abid­jan, Ivory Coast, rec­og­nized the need to again as­sert the ba­sic rights of lib­erty and ini­ti­ated plans to end the auc­tions and re­turn thou­sands of mi­grants to their home coun­try. They also agreed on ways to re­set­tle the mi­grants and break up the crim­i­nal net­works bring­ing them to North Africa. The United Na­tions promised to take the smug­glers to the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice.

This swift ac­tion might help the two con­ti­nents bet­ter deal with the fun­da­men­tal is­sues of mass mi­gra­tion. Africa needs more aid to im­prove liv­ing con­di­tions while Europe must come up with bet­ter le­gal ways to ad­mit more Africans. Africa is ex­pected to more than dou­ble its pop­u­la­tion by 2050, cre­at­ing even more pres­sure to mi­grate un­less there is rapid de­vel­op­ment.

Phys­i­cal slav­ery in Africa may again be ended af­ter this sum­mit. But the men­tal chains about eco­nomic growth and op­por­tu­nity need to be bro­ken. Per­haps the next EU-Africa sum­mit can re­turn to the topic of youth de­vel­op­ment.

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