“Eight hundred,” says the auctioneer. “900 … 1,000 … 1,100 …” Sold. For 1,200 Libyan dinars — the equivalent of $800. Not a used car, a piece of land, or an item of furniture. Not “merchandise” at all, but two human beings. One of the unidentified men being sold in the grainy cell phone video obtained by CNN is Nigerian. He appears to be in his twenties and is wearing a pale shirt and sweatpants.
He has been offered up for sale as one of a group of “big strong boys for farm work,” according to the auctioneer, who remains off camera. Only his hand — resting proprietorially on the man’s shoulder — is visible in the brief clip. After seeing footage of this slave auction, CNN worked to verify its authenticity and traveled to Libya to investigate further.
They took hidden cameras to Tripoli and watched as a dozen slaves were sold at auction for hard labor. When the reporters tried to interview some of the victims, they were “so traumatized by what they’d been through that they could not speak.”
The slave trade is described as a hideous consequence of effective anti-smuggling operations, which left the smugglers sitting on a large number of refugees they could not slip past the Libyan coast guard to final destinations in Europe. The criminal gangs decided to sell off these surplus refugees as slaves.