Tuesday

14th Jul 2020

Most young refugees travelling alone, says Unicef

  • Over 7,000 children crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to reach Italy this year (Photo: European Commission)

Many of the people attempting to reach Europe from Africa are youngsters escaping violence and poverty, UN's children fund Unicef says.

Of the some 7,500 children who took the sea journey this year, around 92 percent are travelling alone.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"What we have really been alarmed by, I would say is the enormous number of unaccompanied children and adolescents who are making this journey," said an Unicef spokesperson.

Unicef classified roughly 35 percent of the people crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa this year as adolescents or children. Of those, the vast majority are alone.

Youngsters from other African states who make it as far as Libya have often endured intense hardship along the way with many at risk of "detention, rape, forced labour, beatings or death".

The report notes some 235,000 refugees and migrants are currently in Libya with nearly another million in Sahel countries. Most want to reach Europe.

“If you try to run they shoot you and you die. If you stop working, they beat you. It was just like the slave trade,” said one 16-year-old from The Gambia who worked on a farm in Libya.

Around 16,500 were spotted heading to Libya from Niger in the last week of May.

Many who make the journey are forced into a "pay as you go" system. Some will work for a few days or even months to pay off smugglers.

Others fall prey to sexual exploitation. Among the biggest group abused for sex are women and girls from Nigeria. Around 80 percent are trafficked to Italy.

Safety is not guaranteed once in Europe. The EU's police agency Europol earlier this year estimated 10,000 refugee children have gone missing. Some are likely to have been taken by criminal gangs.

The EU commission last month in a separate report noted that at least one in four asylum seekers in Europe is a child.

'I am alive but dead inside'

Syria produces more refugees than any other country, with most seeking protection in Turkey, which hosts more refugees than anyone else.

Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact

Michael Spindelegger, the former minister of foreign affairs of Austria and current director of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), reveals some of the proposals in the European Commission's upcoming pact on migration and asylum.

EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece

Over 120 asylum seeking children and teenagers in Greece have so far been relocated to a handful of EU states in a scheme the European Commission says is a demonstration of solidarity. EU states have pledged to take in 2,000.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politician accuses Spanish state of espionage
  2. EU ministers clash with Turkey over Hagia Sophia and drilling
  3. Study: EU recovery package falls short on green investment
  4. WHO: no return to normal for foreseeable future
  5. Macron wants a stronger EU in the Mediterranean
  6. Croatia opens for US tourists, defying EU ban
  7. Poll: only 61% of Germans would get Covid-19 vaccine
  8. UK to spend €788m on new UK-EU border control system

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. EU prepares response to China over Hong Kong
  2. EU to keep corporate sponsorship of presidencies
  3. 'Passengers' became 'lenders' to airlines hit by pandemic
  4. Green NGOs demand EU dumps controversial energy treaty
  5. EU Parliament considers streamlining rule-of-law tools
  6. Italy has a responsibility, too
  7. Poland's EU-battles to continue as Duda wins tight vote
  8. EU 'in-person' summit plus key data privacy ruling This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us