The loss of children’s lives in the Mediterranean is an atrocity that will haunt these shores for years to come – UNICEF

Statement by UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe a.i. Philippe Cori

15 June 2023

ATHENS/GENEVA/ROME, 15 June 2023 – “UNICEF is deeply saddened and shaken by multiple reports of up to a hundred children being among those trapped in the hold of a ship which capsized and sank off the coast of Greece yesterday, in the Mediterranean’s largest sea tragedy in recent years.  

“We can assume that many of these children will have lost their lives, as reports of survivors are so far limited. Our deepest sympathies are with the children’s families, and all those affected by this horrendous event. 

“These are migrant and asylum-seeking children who have fled conflict, violence and poverty. They are children who are likely to have endured exploitation and abuse on every stage of their journey. Most of them will have attempted to make the perilous crossing alone, at the hands of traffickers and smugglers. 

“UNICEF is ready to respond to the immediate needs of children and women who may have survived the shipwreck, in coordination with national authorities and partners.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy. The avoidable loss of so many children’s lives in the Mediterranean Sea is an atrocity that will haunt these shores for years to come. Enough is enough.

“Under international law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, countries are obligated to protect the rights and best interests of children. UNICEF continues to call for the provision of safe and legal pathways for migration and asylum in the European Union, and for coordinated search and rescue operations that help prevent deaths at sea. 

“A child is a child, and countries should work together to ensure that all children’s lives are protected no matter their migration status.”

Media contacts

Georgina Diallo
UNICEF Europe and Central Asia
Tel: +41 76 320 68 14


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook