Migrants disembark from Norwegian ship Siem Pilot, with the bodies of 49 migrants and another 416 rescued migrants in Catania, Sicily, Italy, 17 August 2015 |Photo: ANSA/Orietta Scardino
Migrants disembark from Norwegian ship Siem Pilot, with the bodies of 49 migrants and another 416 rescued migrants in Catania, Sicily, Italy, 17 August 2015 |Photo: ANSA/Orietta Scardino

Migrant women and teens crossing the central Mediterranean face a high risk of sexual violence, warned UNICEF on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The risk is even higher in the case of unaccompanied minors, UNICEF said.

UNICEF on Monday announced it was joining the '16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence,' an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. 

UNICEF highlighted that globally some 15 million teen girls aged 15 to 19 have been sexually abused at some point in their lives. The risk of sexual violence also remains extremely high for migrant women and children along the central Mediterranean route, the organization said. The risk is even higher for unaccompanied minors. 

'Migrant girls most at risk'

Anna Riatti, the UNICEF official in charge of policies in favor of migrant and refugee children and teens in Italy, said migrant and asylum-seeking girls are most at risk of becoming victims of violence, in particular of being sexually exploited, "although it is hard to give exact numbers."

Riatti said abuse victims show surprising resilience "but we know that those who have survived violence need support. For this reason, UNICEF helps them through actions that aim to empower them and give them access to useful services. We also want to guarantee that the entire system of operators who come into contact with children, girls and women are prepared to support them adequately in overcoming traumatic experiences."

UNICEF in Italy has promoted programs to prevent gender-based violence and respond to abuse by strengthening protection systems. This year alone, over 3,000 migrants and refugees were reached by the prevention and support campaign, the organization said. A reported 700 operators who work in the hosting and protection system were also trained to support victims of gender-based violence. 
 

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