People's Stories Justice

Migrating children and women, suffer ‘sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention’
by Afshan Khan
UNICEF Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe
28 February 2017
A senior United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official is calling the routes from sub-Saharan Africa into Libya and across the sea to Europe one of the “world’s deadliest and most dangerous for children and women,” as the agency reported that nearly half of the women and children interviewed after making the voyage were raped.
“Refugee and migrant children and women are routinely suffering sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention along the Central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy,” UNICEF warned in a new report, A Deadly Journey for Children: The Central Mediterranean Migrant Route.
At the time of the report, 256,000 migrants were recorded in Libya – of who about 54,000 included women and children. UNICEF estimates that this is a low count with actual numbers at least three times higher.
In addition, it is believed that at least 181,000 people – including more than 25,800 unaccompanied children – used smugglers in 2016 to try to reach Italy. At the most dangerous portion ¬– from southern Libya to Sicily – one in every 40 people is killed, according to UNICEF.
“The Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.
“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,” Mr. Khan added.
The UNICEF report is based on a survey in the field of 122 people, including 82 women and 40 children from 11 nationalities. Among the children, 15 are girls between the ages of 10 and 17.
“Nearly half the women and children interviewed had experienced sexual abuse during migration – often multiple times and in multiple locations,” according to the report, with “widespread and systematic” sexual violence at crossings and checkpoints.
In addition, about three-quarters of all the children interviewed said that they had “experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults” including beatings, verbal and emotional abuse''.
At the mercy of smugglers, children and women were left in debt and often had to agree to “pay as you ago” arrangements.
In western Libya, women were often held in detention centres were they reported “harsh conditions, such as poor nutrition and sanitation, significant overcrowding and a lack of access to health care and legal assistance,” according to UNICEF.
Included in the report is a six-point agenda calling for safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children. The UN agency is urging Governments and the European Union to adopt this agenda.
Meanwhile, in Libya, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and partners held a five-day training for managers and staff of Libyan detention centres to promote human rights and ensure that the detainees are treated in line with international standards.
* Access the report:

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Trafficked Persons deserve effective remedies as victims of rights violations
by Joy Ngozi Ezeilo
UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, has warned that “trafficked persons are often seen as ‘instruments’ of criminal investigation, rather than as holders of rights.”
Concerned about the gap between the law and the practice, the expert reiterated that “as victims of human rights violations, trafficked persons have the right to an effective remedy for harms committed against them.”
“In many States, trafficked persons do not receive remedies in a holistic manner as a matter of right, but are only provided with ad hoc measures which are predominantly aimed at facilitating criminal investigation,” said Ms. Ezeilo during the presentation of her report of the right to an effective remedy for trafficked persons* to the UN Human Rights Council.
The independent expert was critical of such ad hoc measures as temporary residence permits contingent upon cooperation with law enforcement authorities and recovery assistance which is in turn tied to temporary residence permits.
“Trafficked persons are rarely known to have received compensation, as they are often not provided with the information, legal and other assistance and residence status necessary to access it,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“At worst, many trafficked persons are wrongly identified as irregular migrants, detained and deported before they have an opportunity to even consider seeking remedies.”
In her report, Ms. Ezeilo recommends -as a first step- that States “ensure that adequate procedures are in place to enable quick and accurate identification of trafficked persons” in order to prevent any misidentification of trafficked persons as irregular migrants and subsequent detention and deportation, which effectively preclude them from seeking compensation.
“States should ensure that trafficked persons are equipped with access to information, free legal aid and other necessary assistance such as interpretation services, and regular residence status during the duration of any legal proceedings,” recommended the Special Rapporteur as a strategy to enhance access to compensation by trafficked persons.
Ms. Ezeilo also advised States to provide trafficked persons with temporary or permanent residence permits as a remedy in itself, “where a safe return to the country of origin is not guaranteed or a return would not otherwise be in the best interests of the trafficked person for reasons related to his or her personal circumstances, such as the loss of citizenship or cultural and social identity in the country of origin.”

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