UNICEF: Number of Unaccompanied or Separated Children Arriving by Sea to Italy Doubles in 2016

New York, Noting that the number of children arriving in Italy by themselves via the sea in 2016 more than doubled over the previous year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for urgent and special measures to protect them from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

“These figures indicate an alarming trend of an increasing number of highly vulnerable children risking their lives to get to Europe”, said Lucio Melandri, the Senior Emergency Manager at UNICEF.

“Current systems in place are failing to protect them as they find themselves alone in a unfamiliar environment,” he added, calling for a coordinated European response, given that the children are on the move.

“Apart from addressing the factors that are forcing children to travel alone, a comprehensive protection, monitoring system needs to be developed to protect them,” he stressed.

In 2016, some 25,800 unaccompanied or separated children arrived in the European country – compared to the 12,360 who arrived in 2015. These children, arriving by themselves, also accounted for a staggering 91% of all the 28,200 children who reached Italy’s shores last year as refugees or migrants.

A majority among of such arrivals were from Eritrea, Egypt, Gambia and Nigeria.

Adding to the complex challenges, the Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy also has an incredibly high ratio of unaccompanied and separated children among the refugees and migrants. Compared to other routes, only 17% of the child refugees and migrants who arrived to Greece by sea in 2016, came without adult family members or guardians.

“The presence of so many unaccompanied or separated children along the central Mediterranean route is unprecedented,” said Melandri. “It is obviously clear that we have a serious and growing problem on our hands”.

Source: Qatar News Agency