The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has expressed alarm at the number of migrant and refugee deaths in the past week in the Central Mediterranean, many of whom were believed to be unaccompanied minors.
In anticipation of a major summer upswing of child migrants using the dangerous crossing between Libya and Italy UNICEF will shortly begin an operation with the Italian Government and partners to provide protection support, the agency said yesterday in a press release.
The agency noted the vast majority of children using the crossing are unaccompanied adolescents and they have faced appalling abuses, exploitation and the possibility of death at every step of their journey.
"The stories which I have personally heard from children making this journey are horrifying. No child should face them. Their lives are in the hands of smugglers who care for nothing other than the money they exhort from them," said Marie-Pierre Poirier UNICEF special coordinator for the European Refugee and Migrant Crisis.
An average of 1,000 unaccompanied children a month has arrived in Italy this year, but UNICEF expects this figure to spike in the coming months.
Under the Joint Declaration of Intent signed with the Italian Government, UNICEF will:
- Monitor reception standards for refugee and migrant children, especially those who are unaccompanied, to ensure they are in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- Monitor the situation of refugee and migrant children in reception centers, particularly in the regions of Calabria, Campania and Sicily, in southern Italy; and
- Monitor all actions aimed at the integration of migrant and refugee children into Italian society.