Migrant children were suffering sexual abuse at the hands of people smugglers, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned today.

Addressing a conference titled ‘Lost in migration: Working together to protect children from disappearance,’ Mr Avramopoulos said more on the ground action was needed across Europe to protect migrant children.

“If we want to prove we are civilised people, we must declare a war against smugglers…here in Malta, Libya, everywhere,” he said.

He implored EU member states to move beyond political rhetoric and take up their responsibilities.

“Some politicians are good at rhetoric, and very bad at doing things. Let’s put more pressure on member states to take action,” Mr Avramopoulos said.

The EU Commissioner said politicians risked losing sight of the bigger picture if they merely pandered to voter sentiment on the “unpopular” topic of migration.

He hit out at the fact that only 71 unaccompanied minors had been relocated from Greece and Italy.

The EU Commissioner spoke of the need to improve migrant reception facilities and train officials who came into contact with minors.

Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela declared adamantly that Malta no longer detained migrant children and their families.

He said there was a special facility where these families were treated and welcomed.

“They are definitely not detained,” he said.

During question time, a representative from Unicef insisted that children needed to be moved “from the footnote to the text” in the legislative process.

She questioned how the EU could “pretended to be concerned” when only 71 migrant children had been relocated.

“It does not square up. Malta, please lead the way when it comes to the detention of children,” the representative said.

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