A report issued by United International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that refugees in Libya, mainly women and children, have been victims of abuse, including beatings, rapes and starvation, while living in "hellholes."
UNICEF says almost 26,000 children, most of them unaccompanied, crossed the Mediterranean last year.
Meanwhile, the international news circuit, in its coverage of the refugee crisis, has consistently focused on the burden faced by southern European countries. In the wake of the European Union’s agreement with Turkey last year — in which Turkey received a stipend from the EU and in return agreed to take back any new asylum-seekers landing in Greece — migration across the Aegean has diminished, alleviating part of the migration burden for Greece. However, other southern European countries, notably Italy, continue to be among the hardest hit by the large influx of refugees across the Mediterranean.
The number of bodies washing up on Libyan shores is escalating as the refugee crisis worsens. But refugees also are facing perils even before they step into a boat. Twenty-two African refugees have recently reportedly been killed and over 100 others injured in recent fighting between rival people-smuggling gangs in Libya.
The latest casualties were in addition to the 140 bodies discovered on Libya’s Mediterranean coastline so far this year as well as the 477 deaths of refugees by drowning at sea while en route to Europe from Libya.
So far this year, said the IOM spokesman, some 15,760 refugees have arrived in Italy, up from 9,101 during the same period in 2016, while nearly 3,000 asylum seekers have been rescued at sea and brought back to Libya.