Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, Foreign Affairs Minister
Some Ghanaians have set up camps across the Sahara desert where they exploit and traffic fellow Ghanaians as slaves in Libya, according to a report of a fact-finding team.
The 5-member fact-finding team from Ghana, which visited Libya from February 5 to 10, 2018, comprised representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, the Ministry of the Interior and the research department of the Ghana Immigration Service.
According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, the team came to the conclusion after holding extensive discussions with a number of Ghanaians in Tripoli.
Ms Botchwey, who was delivering a statement on the alleged sale of African migrants in Libya in Parliament on Wednesday, said during the course of the journey, Ghanaians who were unable to afford the cost from one point to the other were handed over to "ghetto leaders."
She said the ghetto leaders, who were mostly Ghanaians, had set up camps or ghettos along the routes, which they operated in collaboration with their partners in Ghana.
"Per their modus operandi, when a migrant is handed over to them, he will be made to call his family back home in Ghana. His family will then be directed to contact the agent/partner of the ghetto leader to settle the indebtedness, after which the migrant is released to continue the journey to the next town.
"Where there is delay in the settlement of the migrant's debt, the migrant is tortured and the abusive act video recorded and sent home to his family. However, in the event that a migrant is unable to settle his or her indebtedness, he or she is sent to Ben Wahlid, another city in Southern Libya, and offered for sale to those in need of cheap labour. This is done in collaboration with some Libyan nationals," she said.
Ms Botchway said between 10,000 and 18,000 Ghanaians were currently resident in Libya.
She said a sizable number of the Ghanaians were legally resident with some having lived in Libya for more than two decades.
Ghanaians on detention
Ms Botchway said the team had confirmed that 72 Ghanaians has been arrested and detained in Libya for various offences including entering Libya illegally, possession of fake Ghanaian passports and attempting to embark on the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe.
She said the team had issued travel certificates to all the 72 identified Ghanaians, and indicated that Ghana's mission was liaising with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) "to ensure their repatriation to Ghana as soon as possible."
Speaking with journalists, the Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, urged the government to send a team to Libya to identify and repatriate the Ghanaians who had been sold into slavery.
He said those Ghanaians were being held in Libya against their will and so the state must intervene to secure their freedom.