From the Senate Floor, Duckworth Brings Attention to Human Rights Abuses in Libya and Calls for U.S. Support
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today urged her colleagues and the Trump Administration to acknowledge the horrible human rights abuses in Libya and provide international support. Duckworth reiterated the devastating conditions of the modern-day slave trade and called upon the U.S. to fully support the International Organization for Migration to help accelerate the closure of Libya’s migrant detention facilities. Video of Duckworth’s speech is available here.
“Every American should be appalled by chilling images of modern day slave auctions,” Duckworth said. “The reports were a wake-up call for the world about the gravity of the situation in North Africa as migrants fleeing danger and economic hardship face new horrors on their journeys to seek a better future."
A full copy of Duckworth’s remarks are below:
Mister/Madame President, I rise today to bring to this body’s attention – to the attention of all Americans –what can best be characterized as a modern-day slave trade – an outrage that is hard to fathom still exists today.
I was recently speaking to a group of pastors from my home state of Illinois who do wonderful work advocating on behalf of human rights and human dignity. One of them, Pastor Walter B. Johnson, shared his frustration that abuses and atrocities being inflicted upon migrants and refugees in Libya have not received nearly enough attention or outrage from the American public, government and in the press.
I couldn’t agree more and that is why I have come to the Senate floor today to speak on this alarming human rights crisis.
Every American should be appalled by chilling images of modern day slave auctions.
Earlier this month, in an investigative piece, CNN released video of an auction taking place. Not an auction for a piece of art or another item one might bid on, but an auction for human beings.
Human beings. Sold for the equivalent of $400.
The reports were a wake-up call for the world about the gravity of the situation in North Africa as migrants fleeing danger and economic hardship face new horrors on their journeys to seek a better future.
The wars in the Middle East and instability in North Africa have upended huge swaths of the region, displacing thousands of vulnerable men, women and children.
Thousands of people fleeing Africa and the Middle East make their way through Libya, hoping to cross the Mediterranean.
And unfortunately many of them face horrifying human rights abuses and danger along the way.
Because of Libya’s limited capacity to govern, its restrictive policies against migrants and its inability or refusal to accommodate the migrants, conditions are ripe for exploitation and abuse in their detention centers.
Particularly horrifying have been reports from survivors about the exploitation at the hands of smugglers who are openly engaged in human slavery, preying on the most vulnerable who have surrendered everything for a shot at a better future.
Migrants have been subjected to horrible human rights abuses in Libya over the past few years, including forced labor, torture and sexual violence.
The Administration must put this issue front and center when we engage with Libyan officials and demand accountability and progress.
Sadly it appears the Administration missed such an opportunity to address this issue during Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj's visit to Washington earlier this month.
The UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli however has taken an important step in acknowledging these abuses and requesting international support.
The European Union and African Union evacuation plan to repatriate the detained migrants that was agreed upon in the Ivory Coast is a move in the right direction.
In 2016, the U.S. provided emergency funding for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help shut down migrant detention centers in Libya.
While the EU rightly picks up the majority of the funding to repatriate migrants, the U.S. should once again consider another emergency infusion to the IOM to help accelerate the closure of these facilities in addition to the $31 million dollars in foreign operations funding for Libya that the administration requested this year.
Additionally, we have a former American ambassador, William Lacy Swing, who is the Director General of the International Organization for Migration. He is on the front-lines of this fight and stands ready to work with Libyan authorities, the European Union and African Union countries to help address this crisis.
The U.S. can play an important role in supporting Director General Swing and other international efforts to protect these migrants from exploitation and abuse.
Human rights are essential to the functioning and well-being of our global community, and that community is threatened when migrants fleeing persecution are forced into inhumane, exploitative conditions of slavery.
Given this country’s own dark history with slavery, we cannot afford to remain silent in the face of such suffering.
We must stand together with the United Nations and our other international partners to help eradicate slavery and the conditions that precipitate it.
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