GENEVA

African migrants trying to reach Europe are being sold into slavery in Libya, including for sex, for as little as $200, international monitors said today, citing testimony from victims.

Having paid human traffickers in the hope of finding a better life many instead were held hostage and their families extorted for ransom.

The International Organization for Migration said “slave market conditions” and detention were increasingly common as criminal gangs sought to cash in.

“Selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger,” Othman Belbeisi, the IOM’s chief of mission in Libya, told reporters in Geneva. “Migrants ... are being sold in markets as a commodity” at a going rate of between $200 and $500 a head, he said.

While some migrants sold this way managed to escape, many wallowed in captivity for months before being bought free or sold on.

The UN agency could not provide statistics over how many people were affected, but relied on accounts provided to its staff on the ground. In one case, a Senegalese migrant identified only as S.C., told IOM staff he had been held captive for months after he made the perilous journey to Libya.

After paying a trafficker more than $300 to arrange for him to be driven through the desert, he was apparently conned when he arrived in Libya, with a truck driver saying the trafficker never paid him the money.

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