In the first three months of 2019, about 16,000 migrants and refugees reached Europe through the Mediterranean migrant routes. Although that represents a slight decrease compared to the same period in 2018, the percentage of children has increased from one in every five arrivals to one in every four arrivals, said UNICEF in a statement.
A total of 3,800 children reached European shores in these months, adding to the nearly 41,000 children already in reception centers in Greece, Italy, and the Balkans since the start of 2019.
In just the first three months of this year, 365 people have died in the Mediterranean, more than 60 percent of the total number of victims registered in the first three months of 2018.
Thousands of children reached with protection interventions
Between January and March 2019, UNICEF reached about 4,480 children with child protection interventions and about 1,950 unaccompanied children received care and protection in Italy, Greece and the Balkans. Another 15,850 children regularly attended UNICEF-supported formal and informal education activities, while 1,100 people accessed gender-based violence prevention and response services.
UNICEF said many young migrants and refugees who made the journey to Europe experienced violence and abuse, with consequences on their psychological and physical wellbeing. Particularly in Italy, nearly all women and girls reported having survived some form of sexual or gender-based violence. A recent study revealed that men and boys are also often subject to sexual violence in the hands of armed groups, while kidnapped or imprisoned, especially in Libya.
Data from Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia, and Bulgaria
UNICEF said in Italy, through February 28, there were 8,537 unaccompanied foreign minors in the country, while 4,324 were unaccounted for, which means those whom authorities reported had left. In Greece, in the first three months of 2019, 2,077 children arrived by sea, nearly 40 percent of all arrivals by sea. That brought the total number of migrant children present in the country to 28,000 (3,535 of whom were unaccompanied).
In Serbia, as of March 31, just over 4,200 migrants and refugees, including 883 children, were present in 16 reception and asylum centers managed by the government. That represents a decrease compared to December 2018, but as weather conditions improve, arrivals and transfers increase. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the first quarter of 2019, border authorities registered about 3,600 new migrant and refugee arrivals. Of the 6,450 people present in the country at the end of March, 19 percent were children and 7 percent were unaccompanied minors. In Bulgaria, during the first three months of 2019, about 300 refugees and migrants, of whom one-fourth were children, presented asylum requests in the country.