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UNICEF: Libya is epicentre for migrant child abuse

UNICEF: Libya is epicentre for migrant child abuseThe United Nations has warned that large numbers of children are still risking their lives to make the dangerous journey from Libya to Italy, according to BBC on Tuesday.

In its new report, UNICEF says almost 26,000 children - most of them unaccompanied - crossed the Mediterranean last year.

The organisation says many children suffer from violence and sexual abuse at the hands of smugglers and traffickers. But they rarely report their abuse, for fear of arrest and deportation.

The agency also says there is a lack of food, water and medical care in Libya's detention centres.

The plight of children, many of them unaccompanied by parents, has become a tragically familiar part of the wider story of mass migration over the past two years. But while much has been said about the extreme dangers faced at sea, the privations experienced on land, especially in Libya, are less familiar.

UNICEF's latest report, A Deadly Journey for Children, documents stories of slavery, violence and sexual abuse experienced by huge numbers of vulnerable children making their perilous way to Italy.

Many of the assailants are in uniform. This is said to be just one reason why those who suffer abuse are reluctant to report their experiences.

And Libya, as the funnel through which so many journeys pass, has earned itself a shocking reputation as the epicentre of abuse.

"Approximately one third [of those interviewed] indicated they had been abused in Libya. A large majority of these children did not answer when asked who had abused them," the report says.

The report maps 34 known detention centres in Libya, three of them deep in the country's desert interior. Most are run by the government's Department for Combating Illegal Migration. But UNICEF says that armed groups also hold migrants in an unknown number of unofficial camps.

In 2016, more than 180,000 migrants crossed from Libya to Italy. According to the UN, almost 26,000 of these were children, most of them unaccompanied. The number of unaccompanied children appears to be soaring.
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