By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
GENEVA, Switzerland – According to a September 5th report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than 75 percent of migrant children attempting to reach Europe are victims of severe human rights abuses.
The findings are based on testimonies obtained from over 22,000 migrants and refugees, including 11,000 children, given to the International Organization for Migration, the UN’s Migration Agency.
Afshan Khan, UNICEF Europe Regional Director, said of the findings, “the stark reality is that it is now standard practice that children moving through the Mediterranean are abused, trafficked, beaten and discriminated against.”
The victims reported being subjected to a myriad of abuses, including sexual exploitation, forced labor, child marriage and beatings.
A 17-year-old girl from Nigeria reported being raped, held captive and threatened with violence. An Afghan boy recalled being forced into labor and beaten if he stopped working. Another child said, “if you try to run, they shoot you. If you stop working, they beat you. We were just like slaves. At the end of the day, they just lock you inside.”
UNICEF reports that children originating from sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk. Those travelling from Libya along the Mediterranean route are vulnerable due to the route being laden with crime and a lack of policing. The risk also increases for children who are travelling alone and over long periods of time.
The UNICEF report comes amid a substantial increase in the number of children migrating to Europe in recent years. Between 2010 and 2011, 66,000 children travelers were reported. That number has now surged to over 300,000.
The children making these harrowing journeys are often unaccompanied. Of those under 18 years of age arriving to Italy via the Mediterranean Sea passages from North Africa in 2016, 92% were alone.
“For people who leave their countries to escape violence, instability or poverty, the factors pushing them to migrate are severe, and they make perilous journeys knowing that they may be forced to pay with their dignity, their wellbeing or even their lives,” said IOM Regional Director for the European Union, Norway and Switzerland, Eugenio Ambrosi.
UNICEF’s report has prompted calls for the European Union and other parties to “put in place lasting solutions that include safe and legal migration pathways, establishing protection corridors and finding alternatives to the detention of migrant children,” said Khan.
For more information, please see:
ABC News – CORRECTION: United Nations – Children Migrants Story – 12 September 2017
Abdolu Agency – UNICEF says Many Young Migrants Face Exploitation – 12 September 2017
UN News Centre – Abuse, Exploitation and Trafficking ‘Stark Reality’ for Migrant Children Trying to Reach Europe – 12 September 2017
Reuters – ‘Just Like Slaves’; African Migrant Children Face Highest Risk of Abuse: Report – 11 September 2017
Yahoo! News UK – Young Migrants Face Abuse on Way to Europe – UN – 11 September 2017