Last year, 25,800 unaccompanied or separated children arrived to Italy by sea. That’s more than double the 12,360 who arrived in 2015.  


Shockingly, these children account for a staggering 91 percent of all the 28,200 minors who reached Italy’s shores in 2016 as refugees or migrants.


This doesn’t take into consideration the far higher numbers of children who attempted to make the journey, but did not succeed.



Most of the children were boys aged 15 to 17 years from Eritrea, Egypt, the Gambia and Nigeria, but younger children and girls have also been among the new arrivals. 


Sadly, several girls interviewed by UNICEF reported being forced into prostitution in Libya as a means to ‘pay off’ the cost of the boat travel across the Mediterranean. Many of the boys who arrive in Libya are forced into manual labour.    



“These figures indicate an alarming trend of an increasing number of highly vulnerable children risking their lives to get to Europe,” said Lucio Melandri, UNICEF Senior Emergency Manager.


“Current systems in place are failing to protect these children who find themselves alone in a totally unfamiliar environment. Because they are on the move, a coordinated European response is needed to keep them safe.”



"Apart from addressing the factors that are forcing children to travel alone from their homes, a comprehensive protection, monitoring system needs to be developed to protect them," Lucio continued. 


UNICEF Ireland this week welcomed the fact that during its first meeting of 2017, Ministers discussed and approved the intake of 40 unaccompanied minors from the Calais camp in France to Ireland, where they will be placed in residential centres.


This move comes as part of the Dáil decision December to accept 200 unaccompanied minors from Calais.