Rwanda is offering refuge to enslaved African migrants trapped in Libya, following a CNN investigation last week.
A CNN team traveled to Libya and witnessed a dozen men being sold for as little as $400 each.
“Rwanda, like the rest of the world, was horrified by the images of the tragedy currently unfolding in Libya, where African men, women and children who were on the road to exile have been held and turned into slaves,” Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“Our door is wide open. We are ready to work closely with the African Union, the private sector, as well as other friends and partners to ensure that we can provide minimum comfort to those in need,” the statement read.
“Given Rwanda’s political philosophy and our own history, we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle.”
In 1994, Hutu extremists in Rwanda targeted minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a three-month killing spree that left an estimated 800,000 people dead. The international community was subsequently condemned for not doing more to halt the genocide.
Libya: We need help
Thousands of migrants have arrived in Libya in recent years in a desperate bid to travel the central Mediterranean route to Europe. The International Organization for Migration estimates there are currently between 700,000 and a million migrants stuck in the country.
The United Nations-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, or GNA, said earlier this week that it is keen to address violations against illegal immigrants but also urged regional and global partners to take responsibility and provide assistance.
Libya “is going through difficult times which affected its own citizens as well. It is, therefore, not fair to assume responsibility for the consequences of this immigration, which everyone unanimously agreed that addressing this phenomenon exceeds the national capacities,” the GNA statement read.
Since the CNN report, Libya has opened an investigation into the slave markets. The probe is being overseen by the government’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency.
With the Libyan coastguard cracking down on sea crossings, smugglers are holding desperate migrants for ransom and selling them off as farm hands in underground markets, CNN found.
CNN was told of slave operations at nine locations across Libya, but many more auctions are believed to take place each month. Some of the auction sites are in territory controlled by the GNA, but others are in areas outside the GNA’s control.
The report has prompted widespread condemnation from the international community.
On Thursday, African Union (AU) Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat told CNN the situation in Libya is a “shared responsibility” stemming from the ensuing chaos after Moammar Gadhafi was ousted.
He said that an AU representative had been sent to Libya to see what measures should be taken and called on the African commission on human rights to open an investigation so “concrete steps (can) be taken.”
Mahamat added that he has appealed to the heads of state in Africa to repatriate migrants.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday he was “horrified” at reports of migrants being sold as slaves, which could amount to crimes against humanity.
Last week hundreds of protesters demonstrated near the Libyan Embassy in Paris.
One protester told broadcaster France 24 at the rally: “We have to mobilize. We can’t let this kind of thing happen… Did we really need to see such shocking pictures before taking a stand? I don’t think so.”