As heinous scenes of a modern-day slave auction in Libya have made international headlines, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) met with Libyan Ambassador Wafa Bugaighis to discuss how to put an end to such practices in the country.
The closed-door meeting Friday at the U.S. Capitol was led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), co-chair of the CBC Foreign Affairs and National Security Task Force, and attended by other caucus members including Reps. G.K. Buterfield, Lisa Blunt Rochester and Bonnie Watson Coleman.
“The is most egregious event that has taken place in the world,” Bass said. “Slavery is a crime against humanity. The people living in Libya don’t control a large portion of the land. Many are living in refugee camps and don’t largely control those either. It is important that the FBI and U.S. government step in and help. This is a global issue that needs immediate help from all international parties including the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations.”
During the meeting, caucus members discussed a recent CNN report that included video documentation of a slave auction in the north African country. Bugaighis, who took office less than two weeks ago, called for the CBC to detail issues in need of investigation and proposed implementations.
“We met with the ambassador out of the profound concern that in this day and age, people are being sold as property,” said Bass, who is second vice chair of the CBC. “The international community must operate on the assumption that we don’t need further proof, what we need is to stop it. The ambassador has agreed to provide us a detailed update on the specifics of the Libyan investigation and will continue to work with us transparently to respond to the migrant and refugee situation. I look forward to the much-needed progress on this issue.”
The meeting follows a letter sent by the CBC to Bugaighis demanding an immediate probe of such auctions and forced labor, as well as Bass-sponsored legislation calling on the Trump administration to respond to the situation in Libya.
The resolution reportedly also demands that the Libyan government conduct an investigation.
The problem stems from tighter restrictions by the Libyan coast guard, which has lessened the number of ships used by smugglers to transport thousands of people out of the country each year.
The choke point has left the human traffickers with hordes of refugees and impoverished migrants, whom they hold captive and sell as slaves, CNN reported.
CNN showed video of Black Africans being auctioned off for hundreds of dollars.
“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” an auctioneer can be heard saying in the video. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”
Buyers then raise their hands and call out bids as men are bought and sold.
“The situation is dire,” Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration, said in a statement after returning from Tripoli in April, CNN reported. “Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages.”