Rwanda Offers Migrants Safety
From Libyan Slavery

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, told Rwandan newspaper The New Times that the country may be able to offer refuge to up to 30,000 refugees. Rwanda’s intervention comes following the revelations that immigrants are being sold openly in slave markets in Libya.

On Wednesday, the Rwandan foreign ministry said in a statement: “Given Rwanda’s political philosophy and our own history, we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle.” Rwanda was at the center of one of the largest refugee crises of the 20th century, following a genocide where 800,000 people were killed and two million Rwandans had to flee the country to neighboring states.

Last month,  CNN obtained  footage of a migrant auction in which a dozen men were auctioned off for $400 each. Evidence of African migrants being sold as slaves has provoked condemnation in Africa and the West.

As the number of migrants that cross the Mediterranean has dropped significantly in 2017, those stuck in Libya are being sold as slaves or held in overcrowded detention centers.  A U.N. report in December 2016 described how those who end up in migrant detention centers, most of which are controlled by armed groups, face human rights abuses.

Libyan officials have condemned the practice of slave trading, but claim that they required more support from the international community to tackle the issue. The United Nations announced its aim to address violations against illegal immigrants, but called upon regional and global partners to help.

Each year thousands of migrants try to cross sub-Saharan Africa end up in Libya, which is the last stopping point in Africa before crossing the Mediterranean for Europe. Following the 2011 revolution that saw the collapse of leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, lawlessness has been widespread in Libya. That has allowed smugglers and armed groups to sell migrants as slaves, or to send them across the Mediterranean in boats that are not sufficiently equipped and seaworthy.

by Valeria Nazzi  (Rome Italy)

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