A formal investigation into alleged migrant slave auctions in Libya has been launched, Libya’s Government of National Accord announced on Friday.
The launch of the probe follows the release of CNN footage of a live auction in Libya, where black youths were presented to north African buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400.
Libya has also pledged to return those sold as slaves to their countries of origin.
Earlier on Friday, the African Union urged Libya to investigate the “slave markets” operating in the conflict-torn nation.
Guinean President Alpha Conde, who is also Chairman of the AU, demanded an enquiry and prosecutions relating to what he termed a “despicable trade… from another era”.
Senegal’s government also expressed its disgust at the abuses, saying on Facebook that the markets constituted a “blight on the conscience of humanity”.
African migrants from nations including Guinea and Senegal but also Mali, Niger, Nigeria and The Gambia make the dangerous crossing through the Sahara to Libya with hopes of making it over the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
Testimonies of migrants have revealed a litany of rights abuses at the hands of gangmasters, human traffickers and the Libyan security forces, while many end up stuck in the unstable north African nation for years.
More than 8,800 stranded migrants have been returned home this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, which is also amassing evidence of slavery.
Conde further appealed for the Libyan authorities to “reassess migrants’ detention conditions” following revelations over squalid jails and detention centres that await migrants who are caught trying to reach the coast.
“These modern slavery practices must end and the African Union will use all the tools at its disposal,” Conde added.