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The Mediterranean Sea is tragically becoming a graveyard for children and their futures.
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The Mediterranean Sea is tragically becoming a graveyard for children and their futures.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over 11,600 children have made the journey across the Central Mediterranean to reach Italy in 2021, which is a significant rise of 60% from the previous year.

The agency reported that the small island of Lampedusa, located off the southern coast of Italy, saw a peak in arrivals this month with 4,800 people arriving in one day.

According to news reports, a migrant reception centre there was overwhelmed earlier this month, as aid and medical workers coped with transferring thousands of people to the mainland.  

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 2,000 people have lost their lives this year as a result of the sinking or capsizing of small and overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean.

The actual number is probably significantly greater because of undocumented boat sinkings.

Overcrowded dinghies

UNICEF stated that children who make these dangerous journeys by themselves are often put in overcrowded inflatable boats or poorly-made wooden fishing boats that are not safe for bad weather. Others may be put in the lower part of the ship or on iron barges, which can be very risky for navigating.

The United Nations humanitarian agency reports that the absence of comprehensive, organized, and sufficient search and rescue capabilities and collaboration for disembarkation increases the risks children encounter during their sea crossings.

The primary reasons for children leaving their home countries without adult supervision are war, conflict, violence, and poverty.

According to UNICEF, research indicates that children who are traveling alone are vulnerable to being taken advantage of and mistreated throughout their travels. Among these children, girls and those from sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk of experiencing abuse.

Around 1,000 fatalities on the main path

Between June and August of this year, there were 990 reported deaths or disappearances of people, including children, attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean. This number is triple the amount from the same time frame last summer, when at least 334 people lost their lives.

After surviving their travels, children are typically taken to hotspots, where they are initially held before being moved to reception centers. These reception centers are frequently closed and restrict movement.

Currently, there are over 21,700 unaccompanied children residing in facilities throughout Italy, which is an increase from 17,700 in the previous year.

‘Broken migration system’

According to Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF’s Regional Director and Special Coordinator for Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe, the Mediterranean Sea has tragically become a burial ground for young lives and their potential futures. This heartbreaking reality is a direct consequence of policy decisions and a flawed migration system, which have had a devastating impact on children seeking refuge and security in Europe.

It is crucially important to implement a comprehensive plan for Europe to aid children and families seeking asylum and safety. Additionally, providing increased international aid to countries dealing with multiple crises is essential in order to prevent further suffering among children.

UNICEF is urging governments to adhere to international laws and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by establishing secure and lawful methods for seeking asylum and preventing children from being detained in enclosed facilities.

Boost protection

It is also suggesting the enhancement of domestic child protection systems and improved collaboration in search and rescue efforts to ensure safe arrival at a port.

The organization stated that the current discussion between the European Parliament and EU Member States regarding a new agreement on migration and asylum offers a timely chance to reaffirm and support important principles for protecting children.

This information comes from the United Nations news organization.