By Linda Bordoni
The report by the United Nations Children’s Fund – UNICEF – reveals that in the first three months of 2019, about 16 thousand migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean to enter Europe.
The UNICEF report notes that even although the latest statistics represent a slight decrease compared to the number of migrants registered in the same period of 2018, the percentage of children arriving on our shores has increased from 1 out of 5 arrivals to 1 out of 4.
All in all, the report details, the total number of children arriving on European coasts during these months is 3,800. They join the approximately 41 thousand children who are already being cared for in reception facilities in Greece, Italy and the Balkans.
Most alarming, is the data concerning deaths during the Mediterranean crossing: in the first three months of this year, 365 people have died during their journey. That’s over 60% of the total number of registered victims throughout 2018.
Regarding assistance programmes implemented by the UN, the report said that between January and March 2019 UNICEF reached almost 5,000 children with child protection interventions. It also assisted almost 2,000 unaccompanied minors who received some sort of treatment and protection in Italy, Greece and the Balkans.
It said that a further 15,850 children have regularly attended formal and informal education activities supported by UNICEF, while over 1,000 people have had access to services for the prevention and response to gender-based violence.
"Many young migrants and refugees who have made the journey have suffered abuse, with grave consequences for the their psychological and physical well-being” UNICEF Italy said, “In particular, almost all women and girls arriving in Italy report forms of sexual violence.”
Recent research has shown that even men and boys are often victims of sexual violence in the hands of criminal groups that kidnap and imprison them, especially in Libya.
Pope Francis has made his call for the protection of the rights, safety and dignity of migrants and refugees one of the hallmarks of his papacy. He has also, repeatedly, appealed in particular for the protection of underage migrants who are particularly vulnerable.