If you're on any social media, chances are you've seen people posting about slavery in Libya over the last few days. Everyone from musicians like Cardi B to politicians and likely some of the "friends" you haven't seen for a decade, has been posting about the story – so what's happening exactly, and is there anything we, as individuals, can do?
The source of the outrage is an exclusive investigation and video posted by CNN last week, lifting the lid on Libya's modern-day slave trade. While the situation wasn't completely unheard of, it had been largely ignored. The stellar piece of investigative journalism, particularly the distressing footage of 10 men being sold at auction outside Tripoli, has been picked up by media organizations worldwide and is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Libya is the main hub for refugees and migrants leaving African countries (like Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Senegal, Sudan and Somalia), and hoping to make their way to southern Europe, as Al Jazeera explains. This, combined with the fact that the fall of Muammar Gaddafi left a power vacuum in the heart of government, explains why human trafficking and people smuggling have boomed in the country.
The Libyan media questioned the credibility of CNN's investigation by seizing on a tweet by President Trump in which he claimed the media organization was a "major source of (Fake) news" that represents the U.S. "very poorly" to the world. But Libyan authorities had already announced the launch of an investigation into CNN's allegations.
Much like the outrage sparked by the case of sex trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown, who recently gained the support of some of the world's biggest celebrities, the story is spreading like wildfire on social media. Cardi B called out the United Nations in a live Instagram video for not "making it their problem or priority to help what's going on in Libya" and accusing the organization of wanting to use Libya for its resources.
If you want to take action, there are several things you can do. First, you can start by contacting UN Ambassador Nikki Haley through this form and asking her to make the slave trade issue one of her priorities. You can also sign this Amnesty International petition urging European Union leaders to stop forcing vulnerable refugees back into Libya. And if you want to contribute financially to this cause, consider donating to anti-slavery organizations such as Free the Slaves, End Slavery Now, and the Polaris Project.