A perilous journey across the Mediterranean
More than 11,600 unaccompanied children have crossed the Central Mediterranean Sea route to Italy since January
This summer has been a particularly deadly. The number of people who died or disappeared attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean Sea have tripled this summer compared to last.
Children are making this dangerous journey are in search of safety, peace, protection, and better education and opportunities. War, violence, climate and environmental challenges and poverty are driving children from their home countries.
Since January of this year, more than 11,600 unaccompanied children have made the perilous journey across the deadly Central Mediterranean Sea migration route to Italy.
These unaccompanied children are at risk of exploitation and abuse on every step of their journeys without their parents or legal guardians.
The lack of regionwide, coordinated and adequate search and rescue capacities and cooperation at sea on disembarkation compound the dangers children face when crossing.
Lampedusa, the first port of call
Fleeing extremely distressing situations in their home countries including armed conflict, life-threatening climate and environmental challenges, exploitation and poverty, children face limited safe and regular pathways. Regular migration channels enabled by humanitarian grounds, student or work visas, programmes for family reunification, or refugee resettlement are limited, and closed to most.
Some are placed in the hold of the ship, some on iron barges – particularly dangerous for navigation. Some may have been separated from their families on route or may be trying to join parents or other family members in arrival countries. Some are victims of child trafficking.
The summer was particularly deadly for crossings. Between June and August this year, more than 990 people including children died or disappeared as they attempted to cross the Central Mediterranean Sea, triple the number compared to the same period last summer. Many shipwrecks leave no survivors or go unrecorded, making the true number of casualties likely much higher.
Often the first port of call for children and families seeking asylum and safety is Lampedusa, a small island in the south of Italy.
Working with governments and partners UNICEF continues to help children access critical services including protection, mental health and psychosocial support, gender-based violence prevention and education. UNICEF works to support the long-term integration of refugee and migrant children into host communities and strengthen national child protection systems to benefit all vulnerable children.
By providing support to help identify solutions and strengthen family-based foster care for unaccompanied and separated children and initiatives to support volunteer tutors, UNICEF provides information to unaccompanied and separated children, adolescents and women on available services and the main issues related to guardianship.