At least 364 children and minors have been intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the Irish Times (IT) newspaper reported on Friday citing the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). So far this year, more than 7,000 refugees and migrants have tried to reach Europe and have been forced back to Libya.
In a report, the newspaper said that children and minors are as likely as adults to be locked up indefinitely in migrant detention centres, upon disembarkation in Libya.
“The centres have been repeatedly condemned by human rights groups, whose staff have documented cases of extortion, rape, abuse, and neglect, while Pope Francis recently compared them to concentration camps,” the report said.
The report quoted Jelka Kretzschmar, a media campaigner and activist with the German rescue organisation “Sea Watch”, as saying: “Bringing children back into situations where torture, slavery, and rape are a daily routine is unacceptable, it will scar them mentally and physically forever.”
“Imagine they were your kids? We really have to show and execute some solidarity and establish safe escape routes,” Kretzschmar added.
The report also noted that the EU has been funding and equipping the Libyan coastguard to intercept boats in the Mediterranean Sea for the past three years, with the aim of stopping arrivals to Europe.