Thursday, May 23, 2024

Mediterranean Sea Now Cemetery For Children, Their Future – UNICEF

The Mediterranean Sea has become a cemetery for children and their futures, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, saying that over 11,600 children crossed the Central Mediterranean Sea to Italy without their parents between January and mid-September 2023.

The UNICEF said the situation was an increase of 60 per cent compared to the same period in 2022, where about  7,200 unaccompanied or separated children made the perilous crossing to the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the UN agency, Lampedusa, a small Island in the South of Italy is often the first port of call for people seeking asylum, safety and opportunities in Europe, stating that the number of arrivals peaked this month with 4,800 people arriving on a single day.

The UNICEF said children who undertake these harrowing journeys alone are often placed in overcrowded inflatable dinghies or shoddy wooden fishing boats unsuitable for poor weather conditions.

UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe, Regina De Dominicis, said, “The devastating toll on children seeking asylum and safety in Europe is a result of policy choices and a broken migration system.

“The adoption of a Europe-wide response to supporting children and families seeking asylum and safety and a sustained increase in international aid to support countries faced by multiple crises, are desperately needed to prevent more children suffering.”

UNICEF noted that some of the children are placed in the hold of the ship, some on iron barges, particularly dangerous for navigation, saying that lack of region-wide, coordinated and adequate search and rescue capacities at sea on disembarkation worsens the dangers children face when crossing.

“War, conflict, violence and poverty are among the main drivers for children fleeing their home countries alone. Evidence shows that unaccompanied children are at risk of exploitation and abuse on every step of their journeys, with girls and children from sub-Saharan Africa the most likely to suffer abuse,” UNICEF stated in a release.

It noted that between June and August this year, at least 990 people including children died or disappeared while attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean Sea, triple the number compared to the same period last summer when at least 334 people lost their lives.

It stated that many shipwrecks leave no survivors, and many go unrecorded, making the true number of casualties likely much higher.

UNICEF said, “Children who survive their journeys are first held in centres known as hotspots before being transferred to reception facilities that are often closed and limit movement. Over 21, 700 unaccompanied children across Italy are currently in such facilities, up from 17,700 a year ago.

“In line with international law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF calls on governments to provide safer and legal pathways for seeking asylum; ensure children are not held in closed facilities; strengthen national child protection systems to better protect children migrating; coordinate search and rescue operations and ensure disembarkation to places of safety.

“The ongoing debate between the European Parliament and the EU Member States on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum presents an immediate opportunity to affirm and uphold key child protection principles and develop policies that address the multiple infringements of children’s rights in countries of departure, in transit and on arrival.

“UNICEF continues its work to support member states in strengthening systems and support in communities of origin, prevent and mitigate risks children face as they move and provide support and inclusive services to all children, regardless of their or their parent’s legal status.

“In Lampedusa, UNICEF provides essential protection services including mental health and psychosocial support and access to information and referral to specialised services. This work is supported by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs as part of the protection project,” UNICEF added.

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