Stories of our kinsmen perishing on the high seas in their bid to escape the harsh conditions at home have been with us for quite some time. But the recent story reported by the CNN about African immigrants being offered for sale, with some being bought for as low as 400 dollars for two of them, is not only very horrifying but beyond understanding, especially in today’s civilised world.
The video showed African men who showed no resistance, but with expressions of weariness, being auctioned at a place in Libya. Before this video exposure, not many would have believed that the slave trade akin to those of colonial times was still being practised under the watch of a so-called civilised world.
It has also been estimated that hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans travelling to Libya with the intention of getting on a boat to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, where they believe greener pastures await them, are being sold by smugglers.
Even after paying huge sums of money to get that far, some of them are forced to do menial jobs or worse still become sex slaves. Some others are held until various sums of ransom demanded by their captors are paid by their families.
This situation is said to have arisen because the Italian government, earlier this year, started paying Libyan militia groups and smugglers to prevent the flow of the migrants by sea to their country.
The effect has been that fewer people are now making it to the shores of Lampedusa and southern Italy as many of them are trapped in militia detention centres in Libya.
Migration has been with us since time immemorial and has not been the preserve of Africans. There have been countless stories and evidence of migrants who have left their countries to other countries and are engaged in very meaningful jobs, have enrolled in schools and are making significant contributions to the countries they have found themselves in while they remitted their families back home.
Such remittances have helped families to pay school fees, pay medical bills and keep them alive. There are immigrants who have had opportunities which they may never have had if they had not migrated. So to a large extent, migration is not a bad thing and will continue to be with us for a long time to come.
The problem arises when immigrants do not go through the proper procedures to get to where they aim at reaching and the dangers, and even death that this illegal method exposes them to.
While en route, some of them are said to be robbed of their possessions, others are ill-treated while worse still, many of them die.
Pictures of bodies of many migrants swept ashore after drowning on sea have many times made it onto the media, with some of them remaining unidentified due to the state of their decomposition.
In spite of all these stories, many Africans and, therefore, Ghanaians continue to migrate through these illegal means.
The question is, why would Ghanaians continue to pay money to connection men to send them through these illegal routes? It could be that some of them are unaware of the dangers that await them. But even so, how do you convince a potential immigrant not to go? Especially when he or she is unemployed and has been seeking employment without success, and when his zeal to go is more about survival?
Maybe if the things we so much admire or wish for in such foreign lands, and which make us so willing to undertake such deadly voyages were available in our country, the zeal to go would not be absent but lessened.
But I believe that if the ordinary Ghanaian is assured of certain basic things such as food, clothes, shelter and good health care, the departure in droves will reduce.
Even though I do not know how the slave markets in Libya will be stopped, especially because it is all about money, I think that creating more awareness about the situation there will be helpful.
This is something that can be taken up in churches and mosques and schools. The media should also play a critical role.
African governments and regional bodies such as the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) must all join the fight in an aggressive manner.
Africa has suffered enough. We cannot allow the slave trade we banished centuries ago to return.
Source: Doreen Hammond, Graphic Online.