Vulnerable migrants targeted by traffickers: Why people risk slavery to reach Europe
Updated 3:48 PM ET, Tue March 13, 2018
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Already this year, more than 10,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe, in the hope of finding a better life.
It's a journey fraught with danger. In 2018 alone, more than 460 people have died or gone missing making the crossing. But there are other hazards for those trying to reach the Mediterranean through Libya.
In a series of reports, CNN has been highlighting the plight of migrants in Libya who have been abducted and tortured to extort a payment for their release, and even sold as slaves.
Yet even with these dangers awaiting them, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) estimates there are up to 1 million migrants currently in Libya. So why would anyone risk so much, and what's it like to make the journey?
In December 2017, CNN spent 11 days aboard a migrant rescue boat in the Mediterranean. Run by Spanish humanitarian organization Proactiva, it picked up 695 migrants from 27 countries who had set sail from Libya and had run into problems at sea.
CNN spoke with some of the migrants on board. Many spoke of abuse in Libya. Here are some of the stories they told us.
Rimon, 35, and Genvieve, 30, from Egypt
Rimon and Genvieve are Egyptians who have lived in Libya for 20 years. They attempted the crossing to Italy with their son Fernando and 10 other family members.
In Libya, Rimon worked as an English and French teacher, and Genvieve was a translator for a Turkish company. They earned good money and had comfortable lives, but they say that after the Libyan revolution of 2011, the country became unsafe, especially for Christians like them.
"The situation was not secure," said Genvieve. "Many crimes were happening around us -- many stealing, many raping, many weapons, no education. Very dangerous for our kids."
"Christians are not welcome there," she added. "ISIS are there and they kidnap them and kill them. Two of our friends were kidnapped in Misrata, and they would have been killed."
They first tried to sail from Libya a few months earlier, but say they were picked up by the Libyan coast guard, and taken to what they were told was a health center. They say they were able to leave after one day, "Because we are white and Arab people." Genvieve added: "Black people stay."
In Tripoli, they said all migrants risk being tortured and robbed, regardless of ethnicity.
Each family member paid 3,000 dinars (roughly $2,250) for a place on a migrant smuggler's boat. They were at sea for six hours before being rescued. They say they knew it would be dangerous, but they felt the risk was worth it.
"Our hope to have a better life was larger than the risk ... our children were unhappy. They need to go out, see other children, play with them, educate well and learn about other religions."
Fekadu, 38, from Ethiopia
Fekadu is from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, an area that has seen anti-government protests against marginalization of ethnic Oromos.
"The government now don't like Oromo people," he said. "There is no democra