Video of migrants sold in apparent slave auction in Libya provokes outrage worldwide

After a video surfaced showing migrants apparently being sold at auction in Libya, people worldwide have been calling for action. 

Last week, CNN published a report on modern slavery in Libya, featuring a video that reportedly was shot in August and appeared to show a man selling African migrants for farm work.

“Big strong boys,” the man said in the video, according to a CNN narrator. “400 … 700 … 800,” he called out the mounting prices. The men were eventually sold for about $400 each, CNN reported. The Libyan government said it has launched an investigation into slave auctions in the country. 

Following the CNN report, demonstrators took to the streets in Paris and other cities last week to express their outrage, and Libyans showed their solidarity on Twitter with the hashtag #LibyansAgainstSlavery

Several world leaders spoke out as well. The chairman of the African Union, Guinean President Alpha Condé, called it a “despicable trade ... from another era” on Friday. The U.N. Support Mission in Libya said Wednesday that it was “dismayed and sickened,” and is “actively pursuing” the matter with Libyan authorities.

I am horrified at news reports and video footage showing African migrants in Libya reportedly being sold as slaves,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said to reporters on Monday. “Slavery has no place in our world, and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity.”

Guterres called for the international community to unite in fighting the abuse and smuggling of migrants, notably by increasing avenues for legal migration and enhancing international cooperation in cracking down on smugglers and traffickers.

However, rights advocates caution that real action may be slow in coming. “People are rightfully outraged,” Human Rights Watch researcher Hanan Salah told Reuters of CNN’s video on Monday. “But don’t hold your breath that anything real is going to happen.”

There are more than 45 million people worldwide who are victims of modern slavery, including forced labor and human trafficking, according to a September report from the human rights group Walk Free Foundation.

In Libya, migrants have become particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. The country functions as the main gateway for Africans to reach Europe, but it is also one of the world’s most unstable, mired in conflict since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing poverty or conflict travel to Libya each year, hoping to set off from the country’s coast to Europe. Once in Libya, they find themselves at the mercy of smugglers operating the dangerous boat passages across the Mediterranean. 

Operating without many constraints, smuggling networks have adopted ruthless methods ― often killing, torturing, extorting and detaining migrants at will. The Libyan government does not have the means nor the commitment to crack down. European countries’ efforts to keep migrants from their own borders have forced the travelers to take ever greater risks to reach the continent. 

“To end the slave trade we need to stop human smuggling,” William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration, said Thursday. “You do that by destroying their business model. And you do that by ... decriminalizing migration and encouraging migration that is documented, safe and secure for all.”

RELATED: Migrant boys in Italy tell of 'hell' in Libya

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Migrant boys in Italy tell of 'hell' in Libya
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Migrant boys in Italy tell of 'hell' in Libya
Ebrima Sanneh, 17, from Gambia exits a room at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Sanneh arrived in Italy this year by boat from Libya. "They rob you and take your money, or if they see you have no money on you, they kill you," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A migrant sits on his bed at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ebrima Sanneh, 17, from Gambia uses a laptop at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Sanneh arrived in Italy this year by boat from Libya. "They rob you and take your money, or if they see you have no money on you, they kill you," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A migrant collects laundry at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A wardrobe is seen at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A migrant washes his face at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Migrants study at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Augustine Okukpon, 17, from Nigeria poses for a photograph in his room at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Okukpon arrived in Italy from Libya. He says that his five months stranded there was a nightmare. He was repeatedly attacked and chased by the street gangs and was relieved to climb onto a rubber boat and set off for Europe even if it meant risking his life at sea. "In Libya there are all those Asma Boys, street boys. They said they don't need any blacks in Libya," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A migrant studies at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A placard that reads: "All men are equal, it is the same life told in a thousand different ways", is seen at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Migrants are seen in their room at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A migrant takes a picture of another migrant with his smart phone at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A migrant prays in his room at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Augustine Okukpon, 17, from Nigeria touches his head at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Okukpon arrived in Italy from Libya. He says that his five months stranded there was a nightmare. He was repeatedly attacked and chased by the street gangs and was relieved to climb onto a rubber boat and set off for Europe even if it meant risking his life at sea. "In Libya there are all those Asma Boys, street boys. They said they don't need any blacks in Libya," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Augustine Okukpon, 17, from Nigeria shows a wound on his leg at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Okukpon arrived in Italy from Libya. He says that his five months stranded there was a nightmare. He was repeatedly attacked and chased by the street gangs and was relieved to climb onto a rubber boat and set off for Europe even if it meant risking his life at sea. "In Libya there are all those Asma Boys, street boys. They said they don't need any blacks in Libya," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Ebrima Sanneh, 17, from Gambia uses a laptop at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Sanneh arrived in Italy this year by boat from Libya. "They rob you and take your money, or if they see you have no money on you, they kill you," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Ebrima Sanneh, 17, from Gambia walks to an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Sanneh arrived in Italy this year by boat from Libya. "They rob you and take your money, or if they see you have no money on you, they kill you," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Augustine Okukpon, 17, from Nigeria is seen at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 22, 2016. Okukpon arrived in Italy from Libya. He says that his five months stranded there was a nightmare. He was repeatedly attacked and chased by the street gangs and was relieved to climb onto a rubber boat and set off for Europe even if it meant risking his life at sea. "In Libya there are all those Asma Boys, street boys. They said they don't need any blacks in Libya," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Augustine Okukpon, 17, from Nigeria sits in the courtyard at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. Okukpon arrived in Italy from Libya. He says that his five months stranded there was a nightmare. He was repeatedly attacked and chased by the street gangs and was relieved to climb onto a rubber boat and set off for Europe even if it meant risking his life at sea. "In Libya there are all those Asma Boys, street boys. They said they don't need any blacks in Libya," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Augustine Okukpon (L), 17, from Nigeria sits in the courtyard, as others play soccer, at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. Okukpon arrived in Italy from Libya. He says that his five months stranded there was a nightmare. He was repeatedly attacked and chased by the street gangs and was relieved to climb onto a rubber boat and set off for Europe even if it meant risking his life at sea. "In Libya there are all those Asma Boys, street boys. They said they don't need any blacks in Libya," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES?
Migrants spend time on a balcony at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A migrant plays with a ball at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Augustine Okukpon, 17, from Nigeria is reflected in the sunglasses of a friend at an immigration centre in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, Italy April 20, 2016. Okukpon arrived in Italy from Libya. He says that his five months stranded there was a nightmare. He was repeatedly attacked and chased by the street gangs and was relieved to climb onto a rubber boat and set off for Europe even if it meant risking his life at sea. "In Libya there are all those Asma Boys, street boys. They said they don't need any blacks in Libya," he said. REUTERS/Tony Gentile SEARCH "TONI CHILD" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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