Migration: women and children, the most vulnerable victims

The migratory route is an obstacle course with enormous risks for the migrants. It is particularly stressful for the most vulnerable, especially women and children, who are more prone to suffer of dehydration, hunger or exhaustion during the journey. They are also easy prey for smugglers or other parties involved in the migration process, usually men, of which they can quickly become victims.

Women and children are more vulnerable to smugglers who often try to force them to exchange sex for services, such as a place on a boat or in a car. A recent UNICEF study shows that women and children who have agreed to pay smugglers by credit (paying the total cost of travel either during the journey or upon arrival at destination) often end up in debt and under increased risk of being abused and trafficked.

“There is a risk of abuse and all forms of violence against women and children throughout the migratory journey. This gender-based physical and moral violence results in sexual abuse or sexual exploitation, or even human trafficking or sexual slavery. These violations have irreversible consequences on the woman and the child,” explains Hamidou Manou Nabara, sociologist and president of the NGO Jeunesse-Enfance-Migration et Développement (JMED) in Niger.

“The perpetrators of these abuses are well known: they are conveyors and often law enforcement officers who are responsible for border security,” according to the sociologist.

“It is time to rise up against these human rights violations related to migration,” said Mariama Moussa, president of the NGO SOS Femmes et Enfants Victimes de Violence Familiale in Niamey. “There is a need not only to develop approaches to punish the perpetrators of these abuses but also to facilitate the migratory movement; approaches that recognize and explain migration as a human right.”

Indeed, international law recognizes a number of rights for irregular migrants which must be respected, as the Council of Europe points out on its website. “Currently, migrant children represent one of the most vulnerable groups in Europe: many are deprived of all access to basic health care and education and run the risk of being exploited by smugglers or traffickers,” said Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović, on the European institution’s website.

“It is up to politicians to guarantee migration as a human right,” said Ibrahim Diori, human rights defender and member of the Association Alternative Espace Citoyen in Niamey.

Often, the more vulnerable migrants’ decision to leave is based on false information given by smugglers who tend to minimize the risks of the journey or on rumors about their living conditions in Europe. Without accurate information, irregular migrants tend to overestimate their chances of success and to take greater risks that may endanger them and their families.

In an interview to The Migrant Project, Amina Saminou Laouali, Chair of the Parliamentary Network in charge of combating irregular migration concluded: “Every migrant must know that migration is a process that has its implications. One must make inquiries and get information about the conditions of travel in countries of transit and destination.”

TMP – 19/12/2018