NO fewer than 25,800 unaccompanied or separated children mainly from four African countries – Egypt, Eritrea, Nigeria and the Gambia, arrived Italy by sea in 2016, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
Lucio Melandri, the Senior Emergency Manager at UNICEF, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said the number of children arriving in Italy by themselves via the sea in 2016 was more than doubled over that of 2015, according to the statement.
“In 2016, some 25,800 unaccompanied or separated children arrived in the European country, compared to the 12,360 who arrived in 2015.
“These children, arriving by themselves also accounted for a staggering 91 per cent of all the 28,200 children who reached Italy’s shores last year as refugees or migrants.
“A majority among of such arrivals were from Eritrea, Egypt, the Gambia and Nigeria.
“That’s more than double the number of 2015,” Melandri said.
The UNICEF official called for urgent and special measures to protect the children from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.
“These figures indicate an alarming trend of an increasing number of highly vulnerable children risking their lives to get to Europe.
“Current systems in place are failing to protect them as they find themselves alone in a completely unfamiliar environment,” he added.
He called for a coordinated European response given that the children were on the move.