Alwaght- The United Nations children’s agency, Unicef, says African Women and children trying to travel to Europe are being beaten, raped and starved in “living hellholes” in Libya.
The Mediterranean sea between Libya and Italy has become the main crossing point for asylum seekers in Europe, after a clampdown on sea crossings from Turkey.
There were a quarter of a million refugees and migrants in Libya as of last September, most of whom languish in unsanitary, disease-ridden detention centers, which Unicef described in its report as “no more than forced labor camps ... and makeshift prisons”, The Independent reported.
Armed groups have taken effective control of official detention centers for people trying to reach Europe amid the political chaos that now reigns in Libya and they also run their own centers, competing and cooperating with criminal gangs and smugglers, according to the UN.
“For the thousands of migrant women and children incarcerated, [the centers] were living hellholes where people were held for months,” the Unicef report said on Tuesday.
In interviews with more than 100 women and children, nearly half said they had been raped or abused several times during their journey, it said. Most of the children said they were beaten by adults along the way, with girls suffering more abuse than boys.
“Here [in the detention centre] they treat us like chickens. They beat us, they do not give us good water and good food,” said Jon, a 14-year-old boy who travelled alone from Nigeria to escape the terrorist group Boko Haram.
“So many people are dying here, dying from disease, freezing to death,” he was quoted as saying in the report.
Unicef said women and unaccompanied child migrants relied 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 on to 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.
Last year, a record 181,000 migrants crossed between Libya and Italy, according to the UN’s migration agency. More than 4,500 people drowned, and at least 700 were children, Unicef said.