UNICEF: Nearly Eleven Children Perish or Disappear Weekly in Central Mediterranean Sea

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released a press statement revealing that nearly eleven children lose their lives or disappear every week in the Central Mediterranean Sea while embarking on journeys in search of safety, peace, and better opportunities.

According to the UNICEF statement, in 2023 alone, at least 289 children have tragically lost their lives or gone missing along the Mediterranean Sea route from North Africa to Europe. “This equates to nearly eleven children dying or disappearing every week as they search for safety, peace, and better opportunities”, the statement says.

The statement highlights that since 2018, approximately 1,500 children have perished or gone missing along this treacherous route. These children make up one-fifth of the overall recorded deaths or disappearances, which stand at a staggering 8,274.

UNICEF underscores that the true number of child casualties is likely to be much higher, given that many shipwrecks in the Central Mediterranean Sea go unreported or leave no survivors.

The press statement also sheds light on the heightened risks faced by unaccompanied or separated children. These vulnerable children make up 71 percent of all children arriving in Europe through the Central Mediterranean Sea route during the first three months of 2023. They are exposed to increased dangers, including violence, exploitation, and abuse. “Girls traveling alone are especially likely to experience violence before, during, and after their journeys,” the statement says.

In response to these distressing findings, UNICEF urges countries to strengthen the protection of vulnerable children not only at sea but also in their countries of origin, transit, and destination. The organization emphasizes the crucial need to prioritize and uphold the rights and best interests of children in accordance with national and international laws.

The year 2023 has witnessed several shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea, claiming countless lives, including those of children. Notably, among the victims were a significant number of refugees from Afghanistan, whose lives were lost in two separate incidents on the coasts of Italy and Greece.