Young asylum seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk of abuse, most probably due to racism, officials from UN children’s agency, UNICEF, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.
“They use words like torture, beating, killing, slavery, trafficking, [and] 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 at a press conference after UNICEF and IOM published a report based on extensive interviews.
“Just imagine for a second your own kids going through that,” Blanchet noted.
According to UNICEF report, which surveyed 22,000 asylum seekers and refugees, including 11,000 children and young people, 77 percent of children and young individuals seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe had suffered “direct experiences of abuse, exploitation and practices, which may amount to human trafficking.”
“Racism is likely a major underlying factor behind this discrepancy,” the report added.
IOM Director for the EU Eugenio Ambrosi called on officials to adopt a more effective border management policy, using trained professionals to care for children rather treat them as “a potential enemy crossing illegally our sacred border.”
Ambrosi also shrugged off the criticism that repeated stories of child asylum seekers suffering may lead to “cynicism” in the society, adding, “We have to continue to be shocked and sad and angry at the violation we see.”
The main route from Libya is considered the most dangerous one due to lawlessness, militias and criminality. Young asylum seekers pay between $1,000 to $5,000 for the journey and when they arrive in Europe, they merely face debt and new risks.
Last week, the UN accused the EU of turning a “blind eye” to the ordeals of asylum seekers held in Libya and called for an immediate measure to help them.
Europe continues to struggle with the biggest asylum seeking crisis in its history. Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in those regions, thus forcing more people to flee their homes.
According to UN figures, Nearly 125,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Mediterranean by boat since the beginning of 2017, with the vast majority arriving in Italy before traveling on to other EU members. An estimated 2,400 have died en route.
The majority of refugees now take the more dangerous route from North Africa to Italy through the Mediterranean. In crisis-hit Libya, smugglers operate with relative ease, but many refugees and asylum seekers also sail from Egypt to Italy.