Vulnerable migrants face slavery, torture and sex trafficking
by Joshua Heikkila | Special to the News Service
ACCRA, Ghana — Videos, recently broadcast on CNN, show the brutal torture of migrants from Sub-Saharan African nations. Men are whipped and burned, begging their families for ransom. With increasing political instability in Libya, forced labor and human trafficking are growing.
In recent years, young women and men from Sub-Saharan African nations have arrived in cities like Agadez, Niger, where with the help of profit-making agents they embark on a dangerous journey across the desert to Libya. Once in Libya, the next step is the precarious voyage across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.
In the past, these migrants might have found temporary work in the informal Libyan labor market. But the ongoing instability has created a situation where some become hostages and are forced into slavery or trafficked into prostitution.
Despite these dangers, people continue to set out on the journey hopeful they won’t fall victim and confident that they will find a better life.
These migrants and their personal stories are not unlike the millions who left Europe more than a hundred years ago on boats destined for Ellis Island with dreams of opportunity in the United States.
In 2016, the world became aware of capsized boats in the Mediterranean and the thousands of deaths annually resulting from them. Less well known have been those who died of thirst and exposure from failed attempts to cross the desert.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partners in the region, including the All Africa Council of Churches, have called on governments around the world to stop slavery and slave markets in Libya, but they realize it is only the first step in addressing the larger issues.
There is a need for comprehensive immigration reform, programs that respond to the negative effects of climate change, increased efforts to provide quality education and employment for youth, and governmental reform that promotes democracy, human rights and economic development.
PC(USA) Stated Clerk the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II is asking Presbyterians to join in prayer against these acts of injustice. “As we attempt to deal with the many social and political challenges facing our own nation, including issues of basic necessities for so many, we dare not forget God’s call to care for those in other lands who struggle against all odds for dignity and daily bread. We must also respond to this crisis that is bringing exploitation and death to millions of our African sisters and brothers. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us pray and act now on behalf of those who are victims of this growing tragedy.”
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
— Proverbs 31:8–9
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