Protest at the Libyan embassy in Madrid against the trade in African migrants
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Hundreds of people protested in front of the Libyan embassy in Madrid this weekend to call for the freedom of the refugees and migrants that that have been turned into merchandise in the north African country. The demonstration was called by various organisations of African people, and people of African descent, under the slogan "we will stop the sale of our black brothers and sisters".
There was a palpable atmosphere of indignation and rage - as well as of sadness - but above all there were calls from hundreds of people against the European migration policies that prevent people from continuing their journies. "It's Europe that prevents us from passing, that halts us, that puts up fences against us," said one young man at the top of his voice. "It's Europe that kills us," cried another demonstrator. Their calls have two targets: the first is Europe and the second is Libya, with whom the European Union has agreed, through financial means, to prevent migrants and refugees from being able to travel across the Mediterranean.
The demonstration was called after the publication of graphic evidence, in a CNN report this month, showing the auctioning off of migrants taking place just a few kilometres from the capital of Libya, Tripoli. It sparked an angry response across the African continent, leading to strong condemnations. From the governor of Mali who called the Libyan embassador soon after the images were aired, to the leaders of Burkina Faso and Niger who called for international condemnations. Rwanda offered to take in 30,000 migrants that wanted to leave Libya. Today, it was African people themselves that protested in front of the embassy.
Calls against the colonial history of the west - and the neocolonialism of the present - could also be heard at the demonstration, with one intervention saying that the body that should be taking a position and acting should be the African Union, not the international community. Another man took the megaphone to announce his tiredness: "tired of seeing how the media in Europe always talk about us, they talk of famines, wars or epidemics, that's the image of us that they sell."
Amongst the demonstrators there was also a young man from Cameroon who, holding back tears, revealed that he had been sold when he was 15 years old: "they sold me at the border of Niger, they took everything I had, my clothes... I was just 15 years old." With quiet determination he told of how he had seen the deaths of many of his friends who accompanied him on the journey. "We came here to say that we are people with rights."
The megaphone passed from one hand to another as a tool of denunciation, amongst unceasing cries and shouts that could barely be heard one above the other, this time to a woman who denounced the situation for people who flee from hunger, povery and terrorism, only to end up in a marketplace: "we are here because they ensavled us, they raped us, they sold our bodies, our ability to work." Continuing, she appropriated some of the cliches that prevail in modern society: "they say to us that Africa is a country, that we're all the same, well then so we shall be, we'll be one skin, we'll be one person and we will remain united." The demonstration ended with an invitation to those present to attend a march that will go from Cibeles to the Puerta del Sol, the date and time of which will be announced soon.
Source: Protestas frente a la embajada de Libia contra la trata de africanos (Es Racismo, link). Unofficial translation by Statewatch.
Protest in France
A protest took place in front of the Libyan embassy in Paris last weekend and was dispersed by police officers using tear gas. According to a report in the New York Times, it "had turned violent".
See: Sale of Migrants as Slaves in Libya Causes Outrage in Africa and Paris (New York Times, link)
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