Slave trade in Libya - Counting the Cost

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The UN-backed government in Libya said it's looking into allegations that African migrants are being sold at 'slave markets' in Libya.

According to reports, the trade works by preying on the tens of thousands of vulnerable people who risk everything on what's been described as the deadliest route on earth.

They use smartphones to connect with people smugglers to get them to the coast in the hope that they can cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

There is no proper registration process for the tens of thousands of refugees arriving in Libya.

According to reports, the business of detention centres is unsupervised in some parts of the country and stories of torture, rape and forced labour have emerged.

When the centres get too crowded, people are then allegedly sold off like goods in an open market.

The International Organization for Migration says trade in humans has become so normalised that people are being bought and sold in public for as little as $400.

Mahmoud Abdelwahed reports from a detention centre in the Libyan capital Tripoli. And Leonard Doyle from the International Organization for Migration joins Counting the Cost to discuss Libya's modern-day slavery.

"As shocking as it seems, it's indeed true. And the reason it [slave trade] can happen is because there is really no rule of law across much of Libya.

Libya is a country as big as France, with a lot of space there. Migrants are coming there.... they see the promise of a new life when they go to their Facebook feed and they think something wonderful is waiting for them in Europe, because a smuggler has abused the system and has sold them that lie," says Doyle.

"They get off the bus when they arrive in Libya and they are quickly put into a kind of murder machine, an extortion machine. They are robbed of their possessions, their families are called.

They are forced, they are tortured, they give them money. And then they are sold. Unbelievable, but they are sold in open, public auctions: $400 for a labouring man, maybe a bit more for a women who can be put in the sex trade. And this is what's happening across the country."

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