Women and child migrants raped, beaten and detained in Libyan ‘hellholes’ – UNICEF

UNICEF said women and unaccompanied child migrants rely on people smugglers to get to Europe, often under a “pay as you go system”, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and violence, including prostitution and rape.

Smugglers typically demand thousands of dollars from migrants for a risky journey across the desert before cramming them onto ill-equipped boats for a perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.

“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,” said Afshan Khan, head of UNICEF’s refugee operations in Europe.

Having largely closed off sea crossings between Turkey and Greece last year, the European Union is searching for ways to stem the flow of migrants from Libya.

This month European leaders offered Libya money and other assistance to try to reduce the numbers departing across the Mediterranean. Aid groups criticised the move, saying such plans exposed migrants to further risks and abuses within Libya.

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Last year, a record 181,000 migrants crossed between Libya and Italy, the U.N.’s migration agency reports. More than 4,500 people drowned, and at least 700 were children, UNICEF said.

“Children should not be forced to put their lives in the hands of smugglers because there are simply no alternatives,” said Khan in a statement.

“We need to address globally the drivers of migration and work together toward a robust system of safe and legal passage for children on the move, whether refugees or migrants.” 

 

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