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Modern-day slavery in Libya: what can the UN and youth organizations do about it?

Slave Labor is one of the most important issues in the world today. According to the International Labor Organization report of 2017, there are around 40.3 million people who are victims of Slavery (International Labour Organization et al.). This kind of labor is prevalent in Africa according to the same report with 7.6 people out of 1,000 people are victims of slavery. (International Labour Organization et al.)

This article tends to look at the issue of slavery in Libya and what are reasons for such an increase in slavery in Libya and also looks at the various reasons why people do get trapped in slavery and the end will try to provide solutions that the United Nations and other organizations can do to address the same.

What is Modern Slavery?

According to the International Labour Organization, modern slavery involves two main issues. The first one is forced Labour and the second one is forced marriage. Forced Labour involves according to the ILO Forced Labour Convention Article-2 Sub-clause 1,

For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.(International Labour Organization).

This definition clearly illustrates that forced labor involves work that is extracted from a person involuntarily which can be through force or threat of use of force. According to the ILO report of 2017 on slavery, there are 24.9 Million People who are victims of slave labor. This accounts for approximately 1.6% of the victims of slavery according to the same report (International Labour Organization et al.).

The second main issue is Forced Marriage. According to the Government of the United Kingdom, Forced Marriage is:

“A forced marriage is where one or both people do not or cannot consent to the marriage, and pressure or abuse is used to force them into marriage.(Foreign & Commonwealth Office).

This definition clearly states that forced marriage can involve sex slavery and also can involve marriages involving dowry. According to the International Labour Organization, repot of 2017,15 million people are victims of forced marriage with 88% of women being victims of forced marriage. (International Labour Organization et al.)

Introduction to Modern Day Slavery in Libya

Libya is one of the states in North Africa. The state is near to Europe and acts as a transit point to refugees who are planning to flee to Europe in the hopes of getting a job of leading a better life. According to the International Organization for Migration, 150,000 people migrate to Europe through Libya. This has been one of the reasons for the increase in slavery in Libya.

Reasons for Slavery in Libya

There are several reasons for slavery in Libya. These reasons include Socio-political and economic issues and instability in Libya and also the huge amount of migration to Europe. According to many the main reason for the slavery in Libya is the increase in migration to Europe due to the poor condition of people in neighboring parts of Libya such as Nigeria, Sudan, and other states.

The first main reason apart from the migration which is attributed to the increase in slavery in Libya is the instability in the country. After the overthrow of the Mohammed Gaddafi regime in 2011, there was an interim government created which couldn't act properly to provide for reconstruction of the country. This has been even illustrated in the statement by the United Nations Support Missions in Libya which said that:

"The breakdown in the justice system has led to a state of impunity, in which armed groups, criminal gangs, smugglers and traffickers control the flow of migrants through the country.” (Mafu)

Even the European Countries and NATO which fueled the overthrow of the Gaddafi Regime couldn't address the power vacuum which was created in the country. 2 Governments assumed power in Libya: One which was recognized by the United Nations-run by the Government of National Accords and the second Government run by the Libyan National Army. This has caused an increase in lawlessness in the nation which allowed for the infiltration of militias and also other forces who took the advantage of the Migrant crisis which is the second reason for slavery in Libya.

Libya saw an increase in Migrants who are taking Libya as a transit point to reach Europe. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, there were around 800,000 refugees who were planning to cross to Europe and out of which 500,000 are registered as Refugees and Asylum seekers. The major reason for a lot of people taking Libya as the transit point is the closeness of Libya with Italy even though this involves crossing the Mediterranean Sea. This has caused an increase in measures from the European Nations which are affected by the Migration from African states. This led to increased detention by the Libyan Government leading to an influx of a huge number of refugees in these detention centers most of which are run by smugglers. According to the report by CNN and other International News outlets, these migrants were sold in the slave market for a price of $400.

These are some of the reasons for an increase in slavery in Libya and how Libya is being seen as the next hub for slavery and slave labor.

Work was done to end the Slavery in Libya

After the news of the slavery in Libya hit the International media especially CNN, the European leaders and also the International community started taking measures to support the victims of the slavery in Libya.

One of the major works involved the creation of a task force in collaboration with the United Nations and European Union was created which was tasked with assisting the work towards the evacuation of refugees which was done by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and also the International Organization for Migration. This task force evacuated 13,000 people out of the detention centers and they were sent to resettlement to third countries.

There was an urgent Emergency Session which was called of the United Nations Security Council to address the issue of slavery in Libya in 2017, which passed the resolution 2388 which stated as follows:

“Reaffirms its condemnation in the strongest terms of all instances of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, who make up the vast majority of all victims of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts, and stresses that trafficking in persons undermines the rule of law and contributes to other forms of transnational organized crime, which can exacerbate conflict and foster insecurity and instability and undermine development”. (United Nations Security Council).

The third major work involved increasing the funding of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for the evacuation work done in Libya by France and Germany. UNHCR until 2019 has evacuated 2,142 Refugees out of Libya who were victims of slavery.

These were some of the major works done by the United Nations and other International Agencies to address the issue of slavery in Libya.


There can be a lot of work that can be done to address the issue of slavery in Libya. This work needs to be done in both political and socio-economic spheres of the lives of the victims of slavery in Libya.

One of the major works which can be done by Youth is to increase awareness about the issue of slavery in Libya. The best way is through social media and consultation with victims of slavery. There needs to be an increased involvement also of youth organizations in the region that can interact with these victims and understand the conditions there are undergoing in the areas. The second work can involve donations and funding by youth organizations and individuals to the Non-Governmental Organizations working in Libya.

The United Nations needs to take strong steps in supporting the enforcement of the investigation into the perpetrators of slavery in Libya and needs to look at ways in which these criminals can be prosecuted. The United Nations should also create ways in which there can be a resolution of the conflict between the governments in Libya which can lead to a peaceful solution and the functional creation of a peaceful Libya. The United Nations also needs to urge countries to support the work done by other agencies in Libya through donations.

To conclude, there needs to be a lot of work which needs to be done both by the United Nations and also Youth which can help in the removal of slavery in Libya and to the creation of a peaceful Africa.


SC Res 2388, Security Council Sanctions Committee, 8111th Sess, UN Doc S/RES/2388 (2017)

Baker, Aryn. “‘It Was as If We Weren’t Human.’ inside the Modern Slave Trade Trapping African Migrants.” Time, Time, 14 Mar. 2019,

Duleux, Andrea. “Slavery and Human Trafficking in Libya.” Borgen, 14 Feb. 2020,

Foounten, Iason. “UN Working to Address Slavery, Abuses against African Migrants and Refugees, Security Council Told.” UN News, 28 Nov. 2017, Accessed 11 Jan. 2021.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office. “What Is a Forced Marriage?” Gov.Uk, 31 Jan. 2013,

International Labour Organization. “Convention C029 - Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).”, 1930,

Global Estimates of Modern Slavery FORCED LABOUR AND FORCED MARRIAGE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY in Partnership With. 2017.

Mafu, Lucas. “The Libyan/Trans-Mediterranean Slave Trade, the African Union, and the Failure of Human Morality.” SAGE Open, vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 2019, p. 215824401982884. Sage Journals,, 10.1177/2158244019828849. Accessed 9 Nov. 2019.

Medecines Sans Frontiers. “Libya’s Cycle of Detention, Exploitation and Abuse against Migrants and Refugees | MSF.” Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International, 2019,

Quackenbush, Casey. “The Libyan Slave Trade Has Shocked the World. Here’s What You Should Know.” Time, Time, Dec. 2017,

United Nations. "High Commissioner for Refugees Calls Slavery, Other Abuses in Libya 'Abomination' That Can No Longer Be Ignored, While Briefing Security Council | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.", 28 Nov. 2017, Accessed 11 Jan. 2021.

Youssef, Nour. “Sale of Migrants as Slaves in Libya Causes Outrage in Africa and Paris (Published 2017).” The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2017, Accessed 11 Jan. 2021.

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