Gemma Parkin at Save the Children writes: In 2014, half of the children who arrived in Italy were unaccompanied, but this year the proportion has increased to over two-thirds (68%).
These children are fleeing conflict, extreme poverty and persecution in some of the world’s most bloody conflicts, failed states and repressive regimes including Syria, Somalia and Eritrea. They are not criminals, but victims of some of the modern world’s most major crises.
Many of those children I’ve spoken to were tricked by traffickers and promised jobs as hairdressers, shop assistants and babysitters. Their families were persuaded to pay thousands of pounds to allow them to head to Europe. But once in the hands of traffickers and far from home, they had no rights and no protection.
Libya has for many years been the point of departure for thousands of people fleeing Africa and the Middle East, but the deteriorating situation in the country has allowed human trafficking to flourish. The lack of police, governance or state control in anarchic Libya means traffickers operate with impunity. Combined with recent good weather, the number of people launching off the country’s northern coast has rocketed in recent months.
On the journey across Libya, children face dehydration and malnutrition, kidnapping, detention and extortion, torture, child slavery, trafficking and sexual abuse. Here in Sicily, the Save the Children team met 17-year-old Brahane from Eritrea. He described being forced to board a pick-up truck of 30 people to cross the Sahara desert into Libya. He reported seeing ruthless traffickers spraying migrants with petrol and setting them on fire for “stepping out of line”. [Continue reading…]