UNICEF reported that an average of two children per day are drowning in the Central Mediterranean while attempting to cross due to the lack of safe and legal routes. The number of children losing their lives on this perilous journey has doubled compared to last year, according to Verena Knaus, UNICEF’s global chief on migration and displacement. These tragic incidents are driven by conflicts in various regions, including Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, West Africa, and even Afghanistan.
In the first half of 2023, 289 children have already lost their lives, averaging around 11 children per week. During the same period, approximately 11,600 children attempted the crossing. Knaus highlighted the absence of safe and legal routes, the lack of robust search and rescue operations, and the desperation of children who are unable to seek protection in the countries they pass through as the key factors behind these deaths.
She emphasised that these deaths are entirely preventable. Additionally, the number of children making these perilous journeys alone has tripled compared to last year, with nearly 3,000 children undertaking the journey unaccompanied, accounting for 71% of all children making the crossing.