African migrant children most at risk of abuse

TMP – 22/09/2017

More than three quarters of children and young adults trying to migrate from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe through the Mediterranean face various forms of exploitation on their journey, according to a new UN report.

The report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) surveyed 22,000 migrants, including 11,000 children and young people.

Children and young adults travelling alone, especially those with low levels of education and those whose journeys take longer, are most vulnerable the report found. More than three quarters of African migrants aged between 14 and 24 trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe say they have suffered from abuse and exploitation.

“The stark reality is that it is now standard practice that children moving through the Mediterranean are abused, trafficked, beaten and discriminated against,” Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said in a statement.
Nearly two thirds of young migrants on the Central Mediterranean route reported being held against their will, compared with about half of people aged 25 and older. Just under half of the young migrants reported being forced to work.

“If you try to run, they shoot you. If you stop working, they beat,” the report quoted Aimamo, a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor from Gambia, as saying. “We were just like slaves,” said the boy who was forced into manual labour by traffickers in Libya.

Those from sub-Saharan Africa are far more likely to experience exploitation and trafficking than those from other parts of the world. About 83 per cent of children from sub-Saharan Africa trying to reach Europe through Libya are at risk of exploitation and trafficking, compared to just over half of those from elsewhere.

In a separate report published earlier in the week, IOM said they had recorded more than 23,000 migrant deaths and disappearances globally since 2014. The real number is likely to be much higher as many deaths go unrecorded or bodies are never found or able to be identified.

“They [migrants] make perilous journeys knowing that they may be forced to pay with their dignity, their wellbeing or even their lives.” said Eugenio Ambrosi of IOM.