Thousands of refugee children are being abused, exploited and arbitrarily detained in Libya, UNICEF reports.
Refugee children and women are routinely suffering sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention along the Central Mediterranean migration route, UNICEF warned in a new report.
In the report, titled “A Deadly Journey for Children”, which was released on Tuesday, the UN children’s agency said a total of 25,846 children – most of them unaccompanied – crossed from North Africa to Italy using the Mediterranean route in 2016.
For the report, UNICEF researchers interviewed a total of 122 refugees – 82 women and 40 children – who tried to complete the perilous journey.
Three quarters of the refugee children interviewed said they had experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults at some point over the course of their journey.
Approximately one third indicated they had been abused in Libya. A large majority of these children did not answer when asked who had abused them. A few children said they had been abused by people who appeared to be in uniform or associated with military and other armed forces, and several others said that strangers had victimised them.
Also, nearly half of the 122 women and children interviewed reported sexual abuse during migration – often multiple times and in multiple locations.
Women and children were often arrested at the Libyan border where they experienced abuse, extortion and gender-based violence. Sexual violence was widespread and systemic at crossings and checkpoints.
Men were often threatened or killed if they intervened to prevent sexual violence, and women were often expected to provide sexual services or cash in exchange for crossing the Libyan border.
UNICEF also identified an estimated 34 migrant detention centres in Libya during their research.
The Libyan Government Department for Combating Illegal Migration runs 24 detention centres which currently hold between 4,000 and 7,000 detainees. Armed groups also hold migrants in an unknown number of unofficial detention centres.
|“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”