Former Barcelona, Chelsea and Inter Milan striker, Samuel Eto’o, has denied claims that he paid for flight tickets to help Cameroonian immigrants return home from Libya.
Amid the slave trade crisis in the North African country, reports (such as this one) stated that Eto’o, who currently plays for Turkish club Antalyaspor, spent millions of dollars booking a plane for Cameroonians stuck in Libya.
“Let us build our Africa,” Eto’o
In a Facebook post, the 36-year-old striker refuted these reports, slamming them as an ‘absolutely unfounded’ rumor.
He wrote, “Several sites have circulated a rumor that I would have given money to every migrant returnee, in relation to a topical issue. This rumor is absolutely unfounded!
“I would therefore take advantage of this opportunity, dear brothers and sisters, to emphasize that love prevents more evils than money can solve.
“So, let’s not waste our precious time looking for thrills at the expense of grieving people, but let us use this time to prevent other brothers from being deprived of their dignity.
“Let us not just react when we can prevent, because among these victims are certainly people who have been our neighbours at some point, but to whom we have not daigné to look kindly.
“Let us build our Africa by having a positive impact on each other!”.
Modern-day slave markets
Libya is the main gateway for people trying to reach Europe by sea.
According to reports by Al Jazeera, more than 150,000 people have used this route in each of the past three years.
'They [the refugees] are from several African countries and they say they have fled war, poverty and unemployment in their countries ... They have taken a tough journey through the desert and they have paid people smugglers to get to Libya to try to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. With the security and financial collapse in Libya, human trafficking and smuggling have become a booming trade,' says Mahmoud Abdelwahed, Al Jazeera correspondent reporting from a detention center in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), slave markets in Northern Africa are so normalized that people are being bought and sold for as little as $400.
'As shocking as it seems, it's indeed true,' says Leonard Doyle from the IOM. 'The reason it [slave trade] can happen is because there is really no rule of law across much of Libya. Libya is a country as big as France, with a lot of space there. Migrants are coming there ... they see the promise of a new life when they go to their Facebook feed and they think something wonderful is waiting for them in Europe, because a smuggler has abused the system and has sold them that lie.'
'Modern-day slavery is widespread around the world and Libya is by no means unique. It's happening in the developed countries of the world as well as the undeveloped countries. But what's particularly shocking is that this is happening effectively in the open, where people can go to a farmhouse, place a bid and end up 'owning' a human being.'