Rabat - More than 150 children have died crossing the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy so far this year, according to UNICEF.
Rabat – More than 150 children have died crossing the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy so far this year, according to UNICEF.
The true number of child casualties is almost certainly higher given that many children on the move are unaccompanied, so their deaths often go unreported.
Since the start of the year, nearly 37,000 refugees and migrants, 13 per cent of whom are children, have reached Italy by sea via the Central Mediterranean. This represents an increase of 42 percent when compared to the same period of time in 2016.
The increase comes despite the grave risks involved in attempting one of the most perilous migration routes in the world. At least 849 people have been lost at sea along the route since January, the UN agency said in a statement on its website.
“It is deeply concerning that vulnerable people, including thousands of children, are risking their lives to reach Europe’s shores using this incredibly dangerous route,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.
“This is further evidence that when safe and legal pathways to migration are cut off, desperate children and families will do whatever they can to flee conflict, poverty and depravation.”
Over the past few days, calmer waters and warmer weather in the Mediterranean have been accompanied by a surge in the number of refugees and migrants attempting to cross.
During the Easter weekend alone, more than 8,300 people were rescued from the sea between Libya and Italy, the same source added. More attempted crossings bring more death, with eight migrants reported to have drowned over the past weekend.
The fatality rate for the Central Mediterranean migrant route currently stands at 3 percent for 2017.