Young migrants face abuse on way to Europe: UN

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A Syrian refugee child is seen aboard a bus as they arrive at the Kokkinotrimithia refugee camp. AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) – More than three-quarters of children and young adults trying to migrate to Europe are victims of torture, rape and other abuse on the dangerous journey, UN officials said yesterday, warning against “cynicism” over the repeated tragedies.

Officials from children’s rights agency Unicef and the International Organisation for Migration said young migrants coming from sub-Saharan Africa via the Mediterranean were particularly at risk from abuse, likely due to racism.

“They use words like torture, beating, killing, slavery, trafficking, rape, not like abstract concepts, not something they have to write a report for school, but as their reality,” Unicef Brussels director Sandie Blanchet said.

“Just imagine for a second your own kids going through that,” Ms Blanchet said after Unicef and IOM published a report based on extensive interviews.

The report said 77 percent of children and young people trying to cross the Mediterranean to
Europe had suffered “direct experiences of abuse, exploitation and practices which may amount to human trafficking”.

Those from sub-Saharan Africa are far more likely to experience such suffering than those from elsewhere, it said. “Racism is likely a major underlying factor behind this discrepancy.”

The report surveyed 22,000 migrants and refugees including 11,000 children and young people.

Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM’s director for the EU, Norway and Switzerland, called on officials to deploy a better border management system with trained experts to care for children rather treat them as “a potential enemy crossing illegally our sacred border”.

Mr Ambrosi also warned against growing “cynicism” over repeated stories of child migrant suffering:

“We have to continue to be shocked and sad and angry at the violation we see.”

The main migration route from Libya is particularly dangerous due to lawlessness, militias and criminality, it said. Young migrants pay between $1,000-5,000 for the journey only to arrive in Europe in debt and facing new risks.

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