At least 200 children have died along the dangerous Central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy so far this year – a rate of more than one child per day – according to the latest estimates from UNICEF. The updated child death figures come as leaders of G7 countries gather in Sicily, a major locus for the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe.
Data for 2017 shows that an increasing number of refugees and migrants, including children, are taking the perilous Central Mediterranean route to reach Europe, despite the journey’s inherent risks. Between 1 January and 23 May, more than 45,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Italy by sea – an increase of 44 per cent over the same period last year. This includes some 5,500 unaccompanied and separated children – an increase of 22 per cent from 2016 – who account for approximately 92 per cent of all children arriving to Italy via the Central Mediterranean route.
“More children are braving the Central Mediterranean route to reach Italy which means that more children are literally dying to get there,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth. “A record high 26,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived to Italy last year, but if current trends hold, that record will be smashed in 2017. That is not a record to be proud of, but a reminder of our collective failure to ensure the safety and wellbeing of refugee and migrant children.”