NEW YORK, May 18 (APP): A record increase in the number of refugee and
migrant children travelling alone has left many exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of traffickers and opportunists.
At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in
80 countries in 2015-16, a rise of almost 500% on the 66,000 documented in 2010-2011, according to a UNICEF report published on Wednesday.
The central Mediterranean passage is one of several migration routes
identified as particularly dangerous for children. More than 75% of the 1,600 14- to 17-year-olds who arrived in Italy reported being held against their will or forced to work.
One child moving alone is one too many and yet, today, there are a
staggering number of children doing just that we as adults are failing to protect them, said Unicefs deputy executive director, Justin Forsyth.
Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability
for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution. It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.
Forsyth, who was speaking to reporters in UNICEF House in New York to
mark release of the agency’s latest report, said children should be protected from violence, abuse and exploitation.
A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse
and exploitation presents a global snapshot of refugee and migrant children, the motivations behind their journeys and the risks they face along the way.
The report shows that an increasing number of these children are taking
highly dangerous routes, often at the mercy of smugglers and traffickers, to reach their destinations, clearly justifying the need for a global protection system to keep them safe from exploitation, abuse and death.
The report includes the story of Mary, a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor
from Nigeria, who experienced the trauma of being trafficked firsthand during her horrific journey through Libya to Italy.
When describing the smuggler turned trafficker who offered to help her,
she said, Everything (he) said, that we would be treated well, and that we would be safe, it was all wrong. It was a lie.
Mary was trapped in Libya for more than three months where she was
abused. He said to me if I didnt sleep with him he would not bring me to Europe. He raped me.
Ahead of the G7 Summit in Italy, UNICEF is calling on governments to
adopt its six-point agenda for action to protect refugee and migrant children and ensure their wellbeing.
These children need a real commitment from governments around the world
to ensure their safety throughout their journeys, said Forsyth.
Leaders gathering next week at the G7 should lead this effort by being
the first to commit to our six-point agenda for action.