10 FEATURE Friday, December 15 2017 | NEW ERA Libya slave auctions: Reality for migrants EU prefers to ignore Simon McMahon A man called out numbers against the murky darkness of the Libyan night: “400, 500, 600, 650.” These were bids in Libyan dinars during a slave auction. Video footage of these scenes, aired in mid-November by CNN, thrust concerns about the conditions facing migrants at Europe’s borders back into the spotlight. In response, the EU called for “swift action”, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, announced a plan to launch “concrete military action” against the perpetrators. The Nigerian government also said it had begun to bring home some of its citizens stranded in Libya. Efforts to enable people to escape from situations of slavery, violence and exploitation in Libya are certainly welcome. But they will need to go beyond the short-term perspective that so often accompanies responses to proclamations of crisis. And these new efforts will reek of hypocrisy if they do not also recognise the relationship between existing migration control policies and the vulnerability of migrants using routes into and through Libya. The story of young men sold as slaves in Libya was the focus of debates at the UN Security Council and topped the agenda at a major summit of European and African leaders. Slavery and other abuses are an “abomination” that “can no longer be ignored”, stated Filippo Grandi, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees. But stories of forced labour, exploitation and the buying and selling of migrants are not particularly new. I heard them myself in 2015 when I was part of a research team which carried out interviews with nearly 200 people who had departed from Libya by boat, towards Italy and Malta. “I was arrested and imprisoned in southern Libya . . . I was sold to a slave trader, along with other Eritreans, Somalis and Nigerians. “This person took us to a farm, where we could not leave except to go to work at a construction site and return. We were always guarded by armed people.” These words, from a young Malian man, were mirrored by many others who spoke of being held captive, put into forced work or bought and sold. Some were set free once they had gathered enough ransom money, wired over to them by family and friends. Others might be released when their labour was no longer required or if they managed, somehow, to escape. But it was also not unusual to hear people being beaten and even see others die at the hands of their “owners”. Our project has not been the 2016, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) found that 71 percent of migrants who crossed the central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Europe had experienced exploitation, particularly kidnapping, forced labour, carrying out work without being paid and being kept at locations against their will. In February 2017, a Sky documentary described Libya as “hell” ing and smuggling there referred to “the extortion economy and new to condemn people being sold as slaves in Libya. But their concern has an air of insincerity when they have known about it for years. The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, expressed her “total condemnation of these despicable acts”, but also stated that “this is not something that began one month ago. Everybody has known about it for years”. violence, exploitation and slavery can “no longer be ignored”, belies the fact that these issues were downplayed and pushed aside as the EU pursued collaboration with the Libyan authorities to control migration. The primary objective of European approaches has instead departing Libya by boat. Since the declaration of a migrant crisis back in 2015, the EU has given increasing amounts of funding and training to the Libyan coastguard and to detention centres to keep migrants on Libyan soil. In the summer of 2017, an emboldened Libyan coastguard then made threats of violence to international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engaged in search and rescue missions at sea. Soon after, an armed militia west of Tripoli with backing from the Libyan authorities – who are themselves supported by Italian and EU authorities – stepped in to intercept boats and prevent people leaving towards Italy. These policies to stop boats arriving on European shores have had ditions of migrants in Libya. Many of the people we interviewed told us that they saw boats to Europe as are pushed back to Libya, they are held in detention centres, many of which have been criticised by international observers as overcrowded, unsanitary places where migrants are exploited. Research reports point to “abundant evidence” which shows that “detention facilities in Libya are the site of sustained criminal activity, as recruitment grounds for smuggling activity, but also processing centres for ransom extraction and slavery.” Another report by the NGO Refugees International noted how often “in Libya the policeman is a smuggler, and the smuggler is a policeman”. Despite this, just a few months ago, Macron claimed that Libya could be an appropriate place to process asylum requests. The containment of migrants in Libya is therefore likely to be reinforcing the very situation that Europe’s leaders appear to be so angry about now. Médecins Sans Frontières described it as “feeding the business of suffering”. European approaches to migration across the Mediterranean have repeatedly been shaped by urgent attempts to address sudden crises. But the situation in Libya cannot easily be addressed by such a shortterm response. People smuggling has been a thriving economic sector for years. The profits from smuggling, exploitation and now slavery provide important funds for different groups around the country. One report describes migrants as “simply another commodity to be exploited” by the various armed groups vying to control parts of Libyan territory. An important contribution to come from a newly announced “transit and departure facility” in Tripoli providing opportunities for people to escape from Libya. They would be resettled elsewhere, transferred to UNHCR facilities in other countries or returned to their country of origin. But so far there are only 10 500 places available – far below the number of places required – and this is little more than the nearly 9 000 returns already carried out by the IOM in 2017. After a decade of repeatedly declaring migrant crises and emergencies at their borders, it is time the EU took a broader, longer-term approach. This has to recognise the structural relationship between policies of border control, dynamics of migration and patterns of migrant vulnerability and exploitation. Intensifying border controls without addressing the reasons why people move or providing alternatives is likely to reinforce the dangers that they face. – Conversation Africa
Friday, December 15 2017 | NEW ERA 11 Daughton on US-Namibia relations and North Korea Senior New Era journalist Alvine Kapitako yesterday sat down with outgoing United States of America Ambassador to Namibia Thomas Daughton, who has been in the country since 2014 to discuss a wide range of issues related to his tenure here. Below is an extract from that interview. NE: Please share with us your achievements as US ambassador to Namibia? TD: I do think that the US- the diplomatic level has improved during the time that I have been here. I don’t really claim credit for that. I give more credit to President Geingob and to his signaling at the very beginning of his term after he was sworn in that he thought that the attitude that was prevalent in the era amongst some of the older Swapo activists that the US was on the wrong side of the liberation struggle and that the United States delayed Namibian independence by ten years and that sort of thing. The president said it pretty clearly at the very beginning that he thought it was time to move on from that. We have been able to take advantage of the opening up here that has resulted from, and that’s one thing that I regard as an achievement because I’ve been that I now think we’ve managed to establish a new kind of working relationship from what some of my predecessors had. I tend to think of that when I think about what I accomplished in terms of the diplomatic relationships and making it better – I think I’ve been able to contribute to that. But then there are a lot of specifics… As you know, I’ve spend a lot of time focusing on our HIV/ AIDS or PEPFAR programming, because it is the largest part of what we do here both in dollar terms and in people terms; that is to say both the number of people who work for the embassy, who are directly involved in it, and also the number of Namibians it affects. It’s a programme that has a direct impact. There are a 150,000 plus people who are on antiretroviral here, so it and there are tens of thousands of people that get tested for HIV and for TB and get treated for HIV and TB every year and the US is directly involved in that. That was going on when I got here obviously, but in the time that I have been here we have gone through an effort to try to refocus what the US is doing in the health sphere here in order to increase its impact. And what that has meant in practice is there has been closer and closer collaboration with the Ministry of Health. the gaps that the Ministry is unable we’re doing. That’s even more true now than it was three years ago. NE: And what challenges (related to your work) did you encounter during your tenure as ambassador? TD: The challenges are the same that you encounter at a lot of places. There are physical challenges; this is a big country (laughs). It’s not easy to get around necessarily. There are challenges in this country, because the population is as small as it is there are human challenges that stem from the fact that while there is always at least one or two people (Namibians), who are experts in whatever the area may be, sometimes there are only one or two. And if the one or two are on vacation then it makes it harder to get things done at the pace that you might want to get it done. We’ve had some internal challenges within the embassy that had to do with salaries and being able to attract good people to our staff (Namibians), but luckily we were able to address those in my a strong local staff that is pretty committed to what we’re doing. NE: Please talk about the trade relations between Namibia and the US? TD: I think that is an effort as I look at what we’ve done to try to improve or strengthen bilateral US Ambassador to Namibia Thomas Daughton commercial relationship. That’s clearly a longer-term effort and I think that is something that my successor will probably work on even more than I did. But, our trade of the US from Namibia, and are for the most part things that come out of the ground. Gold, uranium, zinc, that kind of thing, and the out of the ground. But also oddly Namibia purchases. Their refineries are in the United States so technically they are buying it from the United States, even if the oil for it came from somewhere else. Traditionally that’s the bulk of our bilateral trade. We’ve been looking for ways to try to expand that a bit. I have been particularly interested in trying to attract US investment here in the energy sector in power production and that’s been a slower process than I’d expected. If I’d been able to choose I would But we have brought several delegations here and we’ve sent at least one delegation of people in the Namibian power sector to the United States. That’s something that I think with time will continue to develop, but it’s still very much in the development phase. NE: What is the status of Namibia exporting beef to U.S? TD: One of the things that I do view as an achievement in my time lency -as they call it under the US department of Agriculture - certi- United States, making it the only - that took more than a dozen years, so it was really something of an That said, unfortunately since the announcement was made not a single Namibian steak has been sold in the US yet. That’s more because from a market, and the United States is an enormous country; it has a population of well over 300 million and in a way - and I’ve talked with the Namibian ambassador in Washington about this on a number of occasions - they have to be a little bit careful about who they look for, because it could be that they end up with a market that has too much demand for them to be There have been a number of exchanges back and forth; there have been talks with potential buyers in the United States, and I do think it will happen eventually, but it hasn’t happened yet. In respect to labeling, but as soon as resolved, because they really do need to have a buyer in order to complete agreement on what the labeling will look like and what information it will contain. So there aren’t really any mechanical obstacles. NE: What was your embassy’s role in the quarrel between Namibia, USA and the UN over North Korea projects here? TD: There are two separate tracks of sanctions in respect to North Korea. The international sanctions are imposed by the UN Security Council, and those have been expanding. The Security Council keeps adding to them every time the North Korea blows up a test the Security Council meets and they add additional sanctions. Every member of the United Nations has been put in the position of trying to keep up with these sanctions and do the things that government for well over a year now has been stating publicly that its intention was to meet all UN Security Council sanctions. Separately, we have domestic legislation that imposes sanctions on a variety of issues or countries with respect to nuclear non-proliferation and there is a whole series of them. There is legislation that applies directly to North Korea and under that legislation the US government periodically updates its own list of entities and individuals that are sanctioned under our legislation. These lists come out and they get updated – these days every month or two. But in August when the list was updated it included a North Korean individual, who was living here and the Namibian subsidiary of the North Korean company and a Chinese company that the US believed was doing business on behalf of the North Korean company. The whole goal here is to try the North Korean government, so that it doesn’t have money to continue to develop its weapons. And, because there’s sanctions [in place] since 2006 from the UN, they’ve been getting stricter and stricter and the North Koreans them. And one of the ways that they have been using to generate money for their weapons programme is [by undertaking] commercial activities overseas. There’s been a lot of it in Africa that has taken the form of contracting work (construction) where they’ll come in build buildings like some kind of monuments… They get paid for it because they’ve done work. That’s happened here repeatedly. There are a number of structures here that have been constructed by North the money they earn from that goes straight back to the government and is routed to its weapons programme.