UNICEF is urging European governments to agree on a region-wide approach to better protect refugee and migrant children who continue to face grave dangers and violations of their basic rights during dangerous sea journeys and on arrival to Europe.
It is estimated that approximately 400 refugee and migrant children an average of 29 children a day arrived on the shores of Greece, Italy and Spain during the first two weeks of January alone. Children are enduring especially perilous journeys due to freezing temperatures and rough waters during the winter months.
This past weekend, it was reported that an estimated 170 people either died or went missing in two separate shipwrecks on the Mediterranean. There are reports that children and a pregnant woman were on board. Last week, a nine year old girl from Iraq reportedly drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach the island of Samos with her family.
Earlier this year, at least six children were stranded on the Mediterranean aboard the Sea Watch 3 rescue ship because it was not permitted to dock. The children on board remained in limbo, some for up to 18 days, unable to access urgent medical care or other essential services until the vessel was eventually allowed to disembark.
‘Every day, children risk their lives traveling across dangerous waters in freezing conditions with the hope of finding safety and opportunities to build a decent future. A region-wide approach would help prevent these children many of whom have already experienced exploitation and abuse during their long journeys from suffering further,’ UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Migrant Response in Europe Afshan Khan said.
It is estimated that 23,000 refugee and migrant children arrived by sea to Greece, Italy and Spain in 2018, the vast majority fleeing conflict, extreme poverty and persecution. (QNA)
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