200 Children Lost at Sea Trying to Reach Italian Shores

Italian Coastguard, children, volunteers and officials take part in a symbolic rescue of paper boats to send a message to the G7 leaders to take action to safeguard children on the move off a beach in Palermo, Italy, on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Italian Coastguard, children, volunteers and officials take part in a symbolic rescue of paper boats to send a message to the G7 leaders to take action to safeguard children on the move off a beach in Palermo, Italy, on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

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 gathered 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.

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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, according to UNICEF, 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.

At least 36,000 of the refugees and migrants rescued since January have been taken to Sicily, the site of the 2017 summit, and the Italian G7 Presidency has made migration a priority for this year’s talks.

Photo courtesy: UNICEF

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Rakesh Raman