Migrant women and children face sexual abuse in Libya

TMP –  10/03/2017

Migrant children and women are routinely suffering sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention along the migration route through Libya to Italy, a new UNICEF report warns.

Three quarters of the migrant children said they experienced violence, harassment or aggression by adults at some point during their journey. Nearly half of the women and children interviewed reported sexual abuse during their migration, with many of them saying they experienced it multiple times and in multiple locations.

The report titled: A Deadly Journey for Children: The Central Mediterranean Migrant Route, provides an in-depth look at the extreme risks facing migrant children during their journey from sub-Saharan Africa into Libya and across the Mediterranean to Italy.

Between 4,000 and 7,000 refugees and migrants are being held in detention centres across Libya. UNICEF reported that out of the few government-run detention centres it was allowed to visit, several had scores of  people crammed into cells no larger than two square metres for long periods of time. Women and children also reported a lack of food in many of the detention centres.

“The Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant route for children and women,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director.

“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. We need safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children that keep them safe and keep predators at bay.”

A recent UN survey from late 2016 shows a third of the children making their way through Libya are unaccompanied and as a result are particularly vulnerable..

More than 4,579 people died last year attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya. At least 700 of those who lost their lives were children.

Women and children who have made it  to Europe face further violence and abuse in illegal European camps. Volunteers at a refugee camp near the northern French town of Dunkirk reported that sexual assault, violence and rape are common occurrences at the camp.