Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma has condemned the "scourge of modern day slavery" in Libya and has called on other world leaders to do the same.
"We need to act decisively and support the Libyan Government of National Accord to address this human tragedy and eradicate the scourge of modern day slavery, exploitation and forced labour, currently unfolding in front of our eyes."
Zuma was speaking at the 5th African Union-European Union Summit before a large contingent of world leaders on Thursday.
"As we gather here, we are also haunted by images of many of our continent's citizens plunged in the watery grave of the Mediterranean and the scenes of a slave trade continuing on this very continent."
Zuma said that, to address the "human tragedy" in Libya, a number of factors, including environmental degradation, insecurity and instability and the lack of economic opportunities had to be examined.
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He said that African migrants were also often ransomed, tortured, forced to work, and eventually executed or left to starve until ransoms were paid.
"Women are used as sex slaves and child migrants also suffer abuse and rape. We cannot stand idle without condemning such actions in the strongest possible terms. We can also not let the calls for justice for these victims go unheard."
The plight of migrants in Libya has garnered fresh attention after an outcry over reports of slave auctions in the country, an enormous transit hub for sub-Saharan Africans seeking to reach Europe.
Human trafficking networks have flourished in the chaos that followed a Nato-backed uprising which toppled long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.