Many migrants who make it to Italy don’t tell their friends and families about the hardships they endured, and a campaign that highlights the harsh realities is now targeting potential African migrants on social media, Voice of America reported.
Social media accounts in 15 countries across West and Central Africa — where most arrivals in Italy originate— are receiving posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, said Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Switzerland-based IOM, originally established to help resettle people displaced by World War II, now has 166 member states and is affiliated with the United Nations. Its mission is to promote humane and orderly migration.
The Italian government and the IOM launched the “Aware Migrants” campaign in 2016 on radio and TV, with video testimonies of migrants who made it to Europe but were abused, beaten or raped along the way, migration officials said.
Since the European Union clamped down in 2016 on sea crossings from Turkey, most African migrants make the crossing from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy.
A record 181,000 migrants made the treacherous journey last year on flimsy boats operated by smugglers. So far this year, arrivals in Italy are up 66 percent compared to the same period in 2016, IOM data show.
Of those 181,000, more than 25,000 were children — mostly unaccompanied, UNICEF said. The most dangerous part of the route is a 621-mile trek from the southern border of Libya’s desert to the Mediterranean coast.
On the crossing, there were 525 Mediterranean deaths so far in 2017 through March 14 compared to 482 deaths reported during the same period in 2016, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project reports.
“The purpose of the campaign is not to tell migrants not to leave,” Giacomo said. “That is a personal choice. But we need to provide them with as much information as possible, and quickly.”
Many young Africans underestimate the danger in dealing with smugglers and hostile transit countries, Africa Times reported. The Aware Migrants campaign uses short testimonial videos created by migrants in multiple languages. All end with the warning, “Be aware, brother” and “Be aware, sister.”
The messages are meant to help other Africans – primarily from West Africa, but also Tunisia and Egypt – avoid the suffering survivors have seen or endured.
“The Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF regional director and special coordinator for the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe.
“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” Khan said. “We need safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children that keep them safe and keep predators at bay.”
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