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WASHINGTON: An overwhelming majority of young people using the risky Eastern Mediterranean route for better opportunities in Europe come from Afghanistan, followed by Pakistan and Syria, according to a Unicef survey released this week.

Young migrants at a refugee shelter on the Eastern Mediterranean route.
Young migrants at a refugee shelter on the Eastern Mediterranean route.

Out of the 4,811 children and youths between the ages of 14 and 25, interviewed for this survey, 44 per cent were Afghans, 17pc Pakistanis, 15pc Syrians and 6pc were Iraqis.

Others on the list were mostly from the Middle East while it was learnt that one per cent of Bangladeshis also use the same route.

Those who use the Central Mediterranean route are more evenly divided: 15pc Nigerians, 11pc from Gambia, 10pc from Guinea and 7pc from Bangladesh, followed by mostly other Sub-Saharan nations.

Pakistan is second on the list of host countries, as it shelters 1.4 million refugees who are mostly Afghans. Turkey tops the list with nearly three million refugees, mostly Syrians.

Nearly 17pc of children and young adults who use these dangerous routes to reach Europe are from Pakistan. Out of which only one per cent are females, 99pc males, nine per cent have no education while 26pc have primary education and 59pc have secondary education. Those with higher education are only 5pc.

Survey shows Afghans and Pakistanis mostly use the eastern Mediterranean route

About 46pc of Pakistani children and youth reach Europe in less than three months while 27pc take between three and six months to reach.

Around 27pc take more than six months to reach Europe.

One per cent of Pakistani travellers spent less than $1,000 on this journey while 44pc spent between $1,000 and $2,500 while 38pc spent between $2,500 and $5,000 and 16pc spent $5000 or more.

One per cent of Pakistanis did not say how much they spent on this journey.

As many as 89pc Pakistanis said they faced physical and financial exploitation during the journey while 11pc said they did not.

Harrowing journeys

These findings come from a new Unicef and Inter­national Organisation for Migration (IOM) report titled ‘Harrowing Journeys: Children and Youth on the move’.

The study focuses on those who cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. Some of the world’s most dangerous migration routes cross the Mediterranean Sea, but it remains a popular path to a better life for migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The surveyors interviewed respondents aged 14 to 24 and listed them by the country of origin. It shows that Afghans and Pakistanis mostly use the eastern Mediterranean route.

The study shows that up to three quarters of children and youth face abuse, exploitation and trafficking on these migration routes. Some are more vulnerable than others: those travelling alone, those with low levels of education and those undertaking longer journeys. Most vulnerable of all are those who come from sub-Saharan Africa.

Their journeys took them through Turkey, where many stayed for some time before moving on to Europe. Germany was most often cited as the intended destination.

Escape from war, conflict or violence was the primary motivation behind their decisions to leave their countries of origin. Only about a third of adolescents and just under half of youth cited economic reasons.

Afghan adolescents and youth reported high rates of exploitation, primarily in Turkey or Bulgaria, followed by Iran.

While Afghans have long reported mistreatment and second-class status in Iran and Pakistan, the high levels of exploitation they report in Bulgaria and Turkey indicate continued vulnerability throughout their journey.

Afghans on the move have documented their harrowing experiences via social media, posting about violence and abuse by police — including shootings — and by civilians in Bulgaria, Hungary, Iran and Turkey.

Research has shown that such experiences in transit on top of the trauma of armed conflict back home contribute to mental health problems that persist long after the journey is over.

Other findings

Overall, 12pc females and 88pc of children and youths use the Mediterra­nean route to reach Europe. Out of this, 15pc have no education, 27pc have primary education, 50pc have secondary education and only 7pc have higher education.

Around 47pc of travellers take three months or less to reach Europe while 23pc take three to six months and 30pc take more than six months.

Only 4pc said the journey cost them less than $1,000 while 55pc said it cost them around $1,000 to $2,500 while 31pc spent $2,500-5,000 and 9pc spent more.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2017