Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara called on the International Criminal Court on Saturday to indict criminals who are selling black African migrants in Libyan slave markets.
His comments followed a worldwide outcry over footage aired by CNN that seemed to show men were being auctioned as farm hands in Libya, after being smuggled across the Sahara.
The report was embarrassing to Libya, but also to Europe, which has increasingly been relying on Libyan security forces and allied militias to prevent migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.
“I‘m shocked. I think it’s unacceptable, disgusting,” Ouattara said in an interview on France 24’s English service.
“Those who commit such crimes in my view should … be pursued by the ICC … Condemning is not enough.”
Some West African countries have recalled their ambassadors to Libya over the reports. Libya’s U.N.-backed government said on Thursday it was investigating the reports.
France on Wednesday demanded an urgent U.N. Security Council session on human trafficking in Libya and raised the possibility of sanctions.
But many West Africans and even the United Nations Human Rights office accuse Europe of facilitating the abuses by co-opting Libya to try to reduce the migrant flow, without taking much interest in how they achieve this.
Ouattara declined to take that line, saying that African countries had their own work to do ensuring the economies were prosperous enough so youths did not feel compelled to leave, as well as just “blaming others”.
“This economy has been growing at an average of 9 percent per annum over the past six years and that will create jobs, and Ivorians will stay in Cote D‘Ivoire,” he said.
But he implored Europe to be more “open minded” to migrants, pointing out that Ivory Coast was home to 6 million economic migrants from its neighbours – a quarter of the population.
“Legal migration … should be encouraged,” he said. “I’ll go further to tell Europe and Europeans to not be afraid, because the African youth can bring a lot to the Europeans. This is seen in … music, in football, in artistic … activities”.