World Bulletin / News Desk
Out of an estimated 400,000 migrants, nine percent are children, and shockingly, more than 14,000 children are also unaccompanied, it said in a statement on its website.
The figures were revealed by UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), it said.
“This year, nearly 15,000 unaccompanied children have reached Italy by sea, travelling across the perilous Central Mediterranean route from Libya. Their journey is typically facilitated by smugglers and traffickers,” it said.
“UNICEF estimates that more than 400 children have died trying to make this trip since the start of the year, while many more have suffered abuse, exploitation, enslavement and detention,” it added.
“UNICEF and IOM have joined forces in an action plan to increase support to migrant children in Libya, focusing on child protection, education, water, sanitation and health. This collaboration will ensure that child rights are put at the heart of all assistance in Libya.”
Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission, was quoted in the statement as saying:
“The aim is that throughout this closer collaboration, we will be able to reach and protect more children on the move. Children are among the most vulnerable, and many are in need of protection and support.”
A large number of African migrants seeking to reach Europe because of conflicts and security problems in their countries are using the Libyan route.
Libya has remained in a state of turmoil since 2011, when a bloody uprising led to the ouster and death of longtime President Muammar Gaddafi after more than 40 years in power.
In the six years since Gaddafi's departure, the country's stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of government -- one in Tobruk and another in the capital Tripoli -- and a plethora of heavily-armed militia groups.
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Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell told reporters after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday that the U.S. also wants to see a resumption of talks to reunify the ethnically divided island nation.
"There were seven people aboard, they are all believed to be dead," the official said, adding they were US service members.
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