“I was comforted by my dreams” – unaccompanied child migrants detained in Libya

 

A Deadly Journey for Children – Central Mediterranean Migration Route.

UNICEF’s latest report on child migration includes the story of Pati* (16), from Nigeria. The Libyan Coast Guard brought her to a remote detention centre in Libya after the boat she was trying to cross to Italy in capsized. She was travelling on her own, even though she is a child. She has been locked up with adults. “The situation here is really bad. There is no electricity, no medicine, there are no toilets and there is not enough food and clean water. We’re getting sick and doctors do not come here to help us,” says Pati. “When I was at sea I was frightened. I was comforted by the hope that when someone would rescue me I would be able to come to Europe. It was my dream. But inside I was really scared.” The detention centre where Pati is being held is a concrete building in a remote location where there are frequent violent clashes between local authorities and militias. Aid workers are rarely allowed in. Most of the children who tried to cross the Mediterranean last year were travelling on their own; 700 of them died.

Today, UNICEF is launching its latest Child Alert on the migration route that includes the dangerous sea crossing between Libya and Italy. Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  1. Three quarters of the migrant children interviewed for the Child Alert report said they had experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults.
  2. Nearly half the women interviewed reported suffering sexual violence or abuse during the journey.
  3. Most children and women indicated that they had to rely on smugglers leaving many in debt under ‘pay as you go’ arrangements and vulnerable to abuse, abduction and trafficking.
  4. Most of the children reported verbal or emotional abuse, while about half had suffered beating or other physical abuse. Girls reported a higher incidence of abuse than boys.
  5. Several migrant children also said they did not have access to adequate food while on the way to Libya.
  6. Women held in detention centres in western Libya, accessed by UNICEF, reported harsh conditions such as pooor nutrition and sanitation, significant overcrowding and a lack of access to health care and legal assistance.
  7. Most of the children and women said they had expected to spend extended periods working in Libya to pay for the next leg of the journey – either back to their home countries or to destinations in Europe.
  8. Although most of the married women (representing three quarters of those interviewed) brought at least one child with them, more children were left behind.

You can read the report here:EN_UNICEF_Central_Mediterranean_Migration_230217

 

*real names have been changed

Photo: ©UNICEF/UN052613/Romenz