International

UN says 289 children died in Med crossings this year

Some 289 children are known to have diedin the first half of 2023 while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea toEurope, the United Nations said Friday. The figure is double that recorded in the first six months of 2022, the UNchildren’s agency UNICEF said, as it called for expanded safe, legal andaccessible pathways for children to seek protection in Europe. Verena Knaus, UNICEF’s global lead on migration and displacement, said thetrue figures were likely to be higher as many shipwrecks on the centralMediterranean leave no survivors or go unrecorded. “The number of children who have lost their lives while attempting to crossthe Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe has doubled in the first half of thisyear compared to the same period last year,” she said.”These deaths are absolutely preventable.” Knaus said that in the first six months of 2023, an estimated 11,600children made the crossing — nearly twice as many as in the same period in2022. And in the first three months of 2023, around 3,300 children — 71 percentof all children arriving in Europe on the central Mediterranean route — wererecorded as unaccompanied or separated. The figure is three times higher than in the same period last year. – Oblivious – Knaus said many in Europe, including people about to jet off toMediterranean beaches for their summer holidays, seemed oblivious to the dailytragedies unfolding in the same waters. “This is the real, shocking reality, but we seem to be quite comfortablewith the fact that day in, day out, children lose their lives,” she said.”These children die, not just in front of our eyes but, it seems, with oureyes shut. “Each child’s life lost is a smile that will never be seen, is a dream cutshort.” Knaus said that many children were making the journey unaccompanied overseveral months to reach the shores of Libya or Tunisia in north Africa, fromcountries like Guinea, Senegal, The Gambia, Syria and even Afghanistan. Along the way, they can be exposed to detention, deprivation, torture,trafficking, violence, exploitation and rape, with girls particularlyvulnerable. The eventual boat journey from Libya or Tunisia to Europe typically costsaround $7,000, UNICEF said.”These children need to know they are not alone. World leaders musturgently act to demonstrate the undeniable worth of children’s lives, movingbeyond condolences to resolute pursuit of effective solutions,” said Knaus.

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