By Vatican News staff writer
According to UNICEF, “the Central Mediterranean continues to be one of the deadliest and most dangerous migration routes in the world.”
Since the beginning of the year, at least 350 people, including children and women, have drowned or gone missing while trying to reach Europe, including 130 last week, UNICEF said in a statement on Friday.
This week, another 125 children – 114 of them unaccompanied, were rescued at sea off the coast of Libya.
“Despite these dangers, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, refugee and migrant children continue to risk their lives in search of safety and better life,” UNICEF said, expressing concern that attempts to cross the sea route are likely to increase during the summer months.
Appeal against immigration detention
UNICEF highlighted that the majority of the rescued children, fleeing situations of conflict, war and poverty, have been sent to “overcrowded detention centres in Libya under extremely difficult conditions and with no or limited access to water and health services.” Currently, “nearly 1100 children are in these centres,” the statement noted.
On this issue, UNICEF urged Libyan authorities to release all children and to put an end to immigration detention. It also called on authorities in Europe on the Central Mediterranean to receive and support migrants and refugees coming to their shores, and to strengthen search and rescue efforts.
“Libya has 51,828 migrant children and an estimated 14,572 refugee children; most are unable to access services and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse within the country.” UNICEF pointed out.
Worse still, those in detention are “cut off from clean water, electricity, education, health care and adequate sanitation facilities. Violence and exploitation are rampant.”
UNICEF therefore reiterates its commitment to support all governments across the Central Mediterranean to “find safer alternatives to sea crossing, develop and implement child-sensitive arrival procedure, reception and care facilities and long-term solutions for children attempting to cross the sea.”
“The detention of children in migration contexts is never in the best interest of children,” UNICEF insists.