A refugee holds the hands of two children as they plead with Greek police officers to let them continue their journey to western Europe on the outskirts of the town of Didymoteicho, two kilometers from the borderline with Turkey, on Jan. 24, 2016. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
Some migrant children were suffering sexual abuse at the hands of people smugglers, a senior European Union official said on Friday.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, made the remarks when addressing a conference in Malta titled "Lost in migration: Working together to protect children from disappearance".
Avramopoulos highlighted the need to declare war against people smugglers.
"If we want to prove we are civilized people, we must declare a war against smugglers ... here in Malta, Libya, everywhere," he said.
He said EU member states had 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," Avramopoulos said.
The EU Commissioner said politicians were at risk of losing sight of the bigger picture if they merely gave in to voter sentiment on the "unpopular" topic of migration.
He criticized the fact that only 71 unaccompanied minors had been relocated from Greece and Italy.