Return to Transcripts main page


CNN Investigates Human Trafficking In Libya. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 14, 2017 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, a modern day slave auction in Libya. Nima Elbagir with an exclusive look at the horrors that migrants

face there. Plus


JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: We've got to wake up America. The world is going together, and Trump better get on board or get out of the



AMANPOUR: The governor of California, Jerry Brown, tells me that America risks being last if it doesn't change course on climate.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York. A dark chapter in human history playing out in

Northern Africa. Libya, a failed state since the fall of Wamar Gaddafi, has become a choke point on the deadly trail of migration from Sub-Saharan

Africa over the sea to Italy. Flooded by migrants who carry with them horrific stories of beatings, kidnappings, and yes, even enslavement.

According to the United Nations International Organization for Migrations, as many as 700,000 are in Libya fleeing conflict and poverty at home. More

than 100,000 of them have made it to Italian shores this year. Another several thousand are estimated to have died on land and at sea.

But as Europe cracks down on migration, tens of thousands of men, women, and children are trapped in Libya and snared by human smugglers leaving us

to ask how can this be happening in 2017? It's been the objective of CNN's Freedom Project to expose all forms of slavery and human trafficking. Now,

a team led by our Nima Elbagir was able to travel to Libya to witness the true inhumanity for themselves, and here is the startling report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A man addressing an unseen crowd. "Big, strong boys for farm work," he says. ?.?400, ?.?700, ?.?700, ?.?800 (ph).

The numbers roll in. These men are sold for 1,200 Libyan pounds, $400 a piece. You are watching an auction of human beings. Another man claiming

to be a buyer. Off camera someone asks, "what happened to the ones from Niger?" "Sold off," he's told.

CNN was sent this (inaudible) by contact. Of the months of working, we were able to verify the authenticity of what you see here. We decided to

travel to Libya to try and see for ourselves.

We're now in Tripoli and we're starting to get a little bit more of a sense of how this all works. Our contacts are telling us that there are one to

two of these auctions every month and that there is one happening in the next few hours, so we're going to head out of town and see if we can get

some sort of access to it. For the safety of our contact, we have agreed not to divance (ph) the location of this auction, but the town we're

driving to isn't the only one.

Night falls. We travel through nondescript suburban neighborhood pretending to look for a missing person. Eventually, we stop outside a

house like any other, adjust our secret cameras, and wait. Finally, it's time to move.

We're ushered into one of two auctions happening on this same night. Crouched at the back of the yard, a floodlight of skewing much of the

scene. One-by-one, men are brought out as the bidding begin.

Five hundred. Five fifty. Six hundred. Six fifty. Seven hundred. Very quickly it's over. We asked if we can speak to the man, the auctioneer,

seen here, refuses. We ask again if we can speak to them, we can help them. No, he says, the auctions over with. And we're asked to leave.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was over very quickly. We walked in and as soon as we walked in, the men started covering their faces but they

clearly wanted to finish what they were doing and they kept bringing out what they kept referring to in Arabic is the merchandise.

All and all they admitted to us a very of 12 (INAUDIBLE) that were sold in front of us. And I honestly don't know what to say. That was probably one

of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These men are migrants with dreams of being smuggled to work by sea.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They come in their thousands from (INAUDIBALE), Male, Nigeria, Ghana. It's hard to believe that these are the lucky ones rescued

from warehouses like the one in which we witness the auction. They're sold if those warehouses become over crowded or if they run out of money to pay

their smugglers.

Of these rescued men, so many here say they were held against their will. It doesn't take us long to find victory.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Victory was a slave.

ELBAGIR: We know that some people are going sold.


ELBAGIR: Some people are being sold, is this something you've heard about? Can you tell us about it?


ELBAGIR: Tell us.


ELBAGIR: What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIABLE), I was sold. If you look at muscles, if you check their bodies, you see the mark, they're beaten with an electric

(INAUIDBALE). Most of them lost their lives there. I was there, the person would tell me give them my money. They took me home. So the money

was not even much.

ELBAGIR: Other migrants now start to come forward with their storied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took people to work by force. Even where we are this side. (INAUDIBALE)

ELBAGIR: Anes Alazabi is the supervisor here with no international support; it's his job to look after the capture migrants until they can be

deported. He says everyday brings fresh heartbreak.

ANES ALAZABI, ANTI-ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AGENCY: I am suffering for them. What they have seen here, they really believe me and make me really feel

(INAUIDBALE). They come on different stories and special case. They was abusing them, use them for they stole their money.

ELBAGIR: Have you heard of people being auctioned off (INAUIDBALE)?

ALAZABI: Honestly, we hear the rumors but there's not this obvious. We don't have evidence.

ELBAGIR: But we now do. CNN has delivered this evidence to the Libyan authorities who have promised to launch an investigation so that scenes

like this are returned to the past. Nima Elbagir, CNN Libya.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: So in addition to the Libyan authorities, CNN has also passed the evidence to the international criminal corp. And

Nima joins me now form London. Nima, it's so shocking but obviously, what really can the Libyans do when you pass on this information to them?

ALAZABI: The reality is very little. You saw that what kind of resources they're working with. Some of those people that you saw in that detention

center, the Libyan authority - the Libyan supervisors were actually paying towards their meal out of their own pocket. This is the reality of an

incredibly fragile state of a state that's been allowed to topple towards failure on Europe's doorstep.

The question has to be why isn't the world doing more? What can the world do?

AMANPOUR: You have seen a lot Nima. This obviously clearly shocked you. What went through your mind as you were trying to do this job of reporting


ELBAGIR: This is a story that we've discussed a lot that we across CNN have been trying to pin down for years now. We were hearing these rumors,

we were hearing these reports from migrants arriving in Italy, and we just - none of them wanted to go on record because even on the shores of Europe

they were still so scared.

And I think what hit me the most when we finally got into that auction was just the (inaudible) of it, the casualness. The fact that this was

something that wouldn't of been out of place on a southern plantation in the United States centuries ago. And seeing that up close you expected to

be hit by the horror, but actually what hit me was just the fact that we can do this to each other.

Almost like you were selling something from a farm and the people themselves that were being sold were so passive. That is how few choices

they have, and the reality is also that they have sold everything for that including the viewer. It is almost worse to them to go back to their

families and say you've all sold and sacrificed everything and I come home with nothing. It is easier to be enslaved than to go home with nothing.

AMANPOUR: Incredible reports Nima, thank you so much. And the head of the U.N.'s Migration Agency William Lacy Swing has been following this awful

phenomenon for months as well, even seeing the horrors first-hand in Libya earlier this year. Swing has been pushing officials in Libya to improve

the treatment of migrants, we'll start there. Particularly those in the detention centers like we saw in Nima's report. And he joined me earlier

from Geneva to talk more about it.

Ambassador Swing welcome to the program. You just saw that devastating report from Nima. How much does that frustrate you and pain you. I mean

that it's happening in 2017.

WILLIAM LACY SWING, HEAD OF U.N. MIGRATION AGENCY: Well I take it in - I do have a very personal reflection on that. Because we're trying to

support migrants throughout the world and when I see - look let's just take some figures. We lost 5,000 people in the Mediterranean last year. We've

lost already 2,816 as of today, which is a higher percentage relative to arrivals than last year.

And that doesn't - that we don't know how many other people are buried on the bottom of the sea or lost in the sands of the Sahara. It doesn't have

to be that way, but we don't have the right policies in many countries, and it's putting migrant's lives in danger. And more people are dying than

should normally die along the migratory routes.

AMANPOUR: What right policies should be in place to avoid this situation?

SWING: Look we've traded an organization right here in Geneva, the World Trade Organization, responsible for the free flow of capital good and

services. Now its people who make all of that happen, and I'm not talking about a borderless world. But I'm talking about using our policies much

more creatively and resourcefully.

People can be given temporary protective status. There can be short-term work visas, short-term student visas. There can be re-settlement options,

re-unification of families. There are many ways to deal with this issue, and given the demography that we know about the median age of people in

Niger is 14, in western Europe is 47.

So we know the demographic forces are there, in addition to climate change. So we just have to examine our policies and say "What is the humane and

responsible thing to do"?

AMANPOUR: And because one of the most humane things is to send those poor people back, those who are asking to be sent home.

SWING: Absolutely, we normally every year send 35 to 40 thousand people back. Last year it was 94,000. 56,000 alone from Germany, so we have the

capacity to do that as long as it's voluntary, we have that capacity to do it. And we've done it for 30 years, so that's one option and a lot of them

do want to go home.

AMANPOUR: Well you went to the detention centers and what did they tell you? What did you hear, what were the stories that you heard there?

SWING: Well at first it's pretty horrible. I saw one of the 30 that they - under government control was supposed to be the best one. You have

heavily over crowded warehouses with no ventilation, no light, with men and women and children sleeping apart - maybe six inches apart, very little in

the way of hygienic facilities. What they had were providing.

We've been able to remove four or five of them. We are working to improve the others, and my plea to the government was, first of all let's turn

these - let's separate the men and women. And turn detention centers into open reception centers and eventually not put them in detention centers at


We've taken home about 15,000 from the detention centers. We've done about 10,000 flights and we're going to continue to do more.

AMANPOUR: What about social media? I know that you've written that a lot of the commentary around this crisis is not helping. What do you mean?

SWING: Well you're absolutely right. I mean the smugglers themselves are using heavily the social media to try to tempt these people to come into

their area. You know it's a very lucrative business.

I suppose probably 1 billion to 1.5 billion a year. It's much easier than running drugs or guns and almost as profitable. So we've got to try to

break the smugglers business model and for that, we need to back in Libya, all of us.

AMANPOUR: And just finally, I mean, there you are in Geneva and you know the climate against refugees and economic migrants that is in Europe today,

not to mention here in the United States. I mean, where do you realistically see all of this ending up?

SWING: Well you are absolutely right. We have a very toxic atmosphere right now. Migration has become a very negative word and we need to come

back to a definition that's much more historically accurate.

The 1.5 million who came north in 2015 is less than a half percent of Europe's total population of the 28 states. It's a perfectly manageable

issue. It's not a problem to be solved, it's a human reality that we all have to learn to manage.

AMANPOUR: We wish you luck. Ambassador Swing, thank you so much for joining us.

SWING: Thank you very much yourself.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back. The fight to save our entire plant. My interview with environmentalist, governor and some say, President of the

Republic of California, Jerry Brown. That's next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Now that Team Trump has made it's debut on the international climate stage. It happened in Germany and it

wasn't pretty. They brought fossil fuel producers to pitch themselves as the solution.


HOLLY KRUTKA, V.P. COAL GENERATION AND EMISSIONS TECHNOLOGIES: Coal and other fossil fuels will help exceed the U.N.'s sustainable goals. Like

ensuring access affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energies for all. I think the question and the discussion today needs to be not if we

will coal, but how.


AMANPOUR: The proceedings were interrupted by protestors singing, keep it in the ground. But elsewhere in Bonn there was an alternative reality led

by former U.S.V. Al Gore, pitching American cities, states and businesses that are all committed to fighting climate change.


JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: America, we're here, we're in and we're not going away.


AMANPOUR: That was Jerry Brown, Governor of America's most popular state, California. That would populace; it's the sixth biggest economy in the

world which is about the same as France.

And from Bonn, I began by asking him, what kind of reaction delegations have gotten?

BROWN: Well, I don't think anybody takes that seriously. Look, we just got a - a report from the thousands of scientists, second warning to

humanity that human beings are collision course with nature. The countries represented here and the sub-national states, they all see this. I say

America, and only part of America represented by the President and some of the Republicans.

They are so out of step with the people in (Bonn), without the (staff) with the leaders of the rest of the world.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe China is - is loving this opportunity to take global leadership away from the United States?

BROWN: Well, it is a paradox that by espousing America first, President Trump is risking having American last or if not last, a second, a third, or

fourth or fifth.

The climate change, along with some other key risks, is existential. Is - is taking, increasingly the center stage and if America is going to be

AWOL, absent then others will occupy the field. And certainly, China, with its size, its wealth and its political commitment is in a position to

marginalize America's role.

Not just in climate change but trade and other relations.

AMANPOUR: The EPA Administrators got proof and sent video (messenger), saying, that the U.S. should celebrate its tremendous natural resources,

such as coal, oil and natural gas. And then, there is another one, David Banks, who is the special assistant to President Trump on this issue. And

he said the following.


DAVID BANKS: I think that this panel is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy

system. If we are unwilling to have an honest, objective discussion about the need to balance effectively, climate litigation, economic development

and energy security objectives.


AMANPOUR: So, what do you make of him defending that stance there in Bonn.

BROWN: Pure double talk. It - it's not just something you can ignore. We are looking at starvation, disruption, mass migrations, the spread of

diseases and this is coming.

And the irreversible tipping points that the scientists, not the politicians, are warning us about and the benighted program that is being

espoused from Washington under the Republicans and under Trump. It is an outrage, it's - it's deviant to the world norm.

No one takes it seriously. It's such an observantly. The idea that climate change which the scientists of the world, almost unanimously,

subscribed to is and hoax and a Chinese hoax, really gives climate denial about the worst face you can possibly imagine.

I think in that sense, the world is re - re-upping its - its commitment and its will. So, I think that far from persuading anybody in this kind of

double talk about the need for coal and fossil fuel. Sure we are going to need it for a while, of course but we have to get on a track to go to zero


If not, people are going to suffer. The problems of the world will become exacerbated. And everything we are trying to do is going to get harder.

So, this is not a time to fiddle while the word is burning. We got to wake up, America. The world is coming together and Trump better get on board or

get out of the way.

AMANPOUR: While you saying that the world is burning, your own state has had the most terrible wildfires just recently. You know, they call you the

President of the Republic of California. It's a massive state.

What is California doing to do - to do what it can to come back from affects of climate change?

BROWN: Well, we have the 30 percent of our energy renewable. It will be 50 percent in a few more years. We have a strong - a policy for electric

and hydrazine vehicles. We have a cap and trade system, a low carbon fuel standard. We have very strict energy efficiency for buildings for

appliances. We have our land use rules, now, being aligned with a lower carbon footprint.

We're doing everything we can and other states are joining with us in the United States and 204 of them around the world. So, we're doing a lot.

But, to get the job done, we need the United States leadership, along with China and India and all the major countries, that's where we have to go.

The alternative is unthinkable.

AMANPOUR: Can I broaden it out a little bit, Governor Brown because you've been very prominent in the sort of so-called resistance springing up to

Donald Trump around the United States and you've got quite an important coalition of governors and mayors around the country and ordinary people.

What are the main issues that you feel this administration needs to be stopped on and can states and local governments really make a difference to

what the Federal Government is trying to do? Whether it's on immigration, we've talked about climate, the economy, trade, jobs all of those things.

BROWN: Well look we already had an election in Virginia, we're going to have another election coming soon. The Republicans and the president tried

to derail healthcare for millions of people and they couldn't get it done because it wasn't right, it hurt too many people. Now they're working with

some kind of a tax program that will enormously increase our debt burden, jeopardize our financial security over the next several years and we're

fighting that.

We're fighting for fiscal rectitude, we're fighting for environmental sanity, we're fighting for immigration humanity and generosity in so many

different ways, but I don't see it so much as a resistance as I see it as action being taken at this level of government and we will carry the ball

until finally Washington wakes up and we get the kind of leadership that is consistent with the problems that America and the rest of the world is


AMANPOUR: And before I let you go, is it Governor Brown for President in 2020?

BROWN: No I'm going back to my ranch and cultivate my olive trees so, but I'll be there if you have any questions and you know how to get a hold of


AMANPOUR: Governor Brown, thank you so much from Bonn.

BROWN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And a final thought tonight, imagine a world without its natural wonders; from the frosty heights of Kilimanjaro to the vibrant coral reefs

of the deep. The world's natural treasures are facing a nasty end. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that 62 natural world

heritage sites are being devastated by global warming and other human action.

That is double the number at risk just three years ago and it threatens orangutans, butterflies and countless other species all across the globe.

But there is a glimmer of hope, the tide can still be turned, like in Ivory Coast for instance where the numbers of elephants and chimps are booming

again after the conflict ended and international support came in. So a world at risk, yes but also one that we can save if we really want to.

That's it for our program tonight, remember you can always listen to our podcast and see us on-line at and of course follow me on

Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.