UNICEF: Record Numbers of Unaccompanied Children Arrive in Italy

Geneva, – More and more migrant children have been crossing the sea to Italy without their families, bringing the number of unaccompanied minors to a record 20,000 so far this year, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

In the first nine months of 2016 more children arrived by sea in Italy than in all of last year. This year more than 90% of the children travelled alone while in 2015 the unaccompanied accounted for 75%.

From January to October 2016 it is estimated that more than 20,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived by sea to Italy. This is already more than in 2015 when there were in total 16,500 child arrivals, of whom 12,300 were unaccompanied and separated children.

According to a UNICEF team on the ground the situation of refugee and migrant children in Italy is increasingly desperate and the Italian child protection system is overstretched. “Each week hundreds of children arrive here, every one of them has real burning needs – from the fragile newborn babies to the teenagers travelling alone who have no idea what to expect in a foreign land,” said Sabrina Avakian UNICEF child protection officer currently in Calabria, Italy to assess the needs of refugee and migrant children especially the new arrivals.

“Some of the children are deeply distressed from the journey, they witnessed drownings, some have terrible chemical burns from the fuel on the dinghies, the babies and their mothers need special care in breastfeeding, they all need proper protection and accommodation and it is just taking far too long for them”.

More than 3,100 people have drowned so far in 2016 in the Central Mediterranean, making it the most dangerous year on record. An unknown number of children have died at sea.

Source: Qatar News Agency