Italian Admiral Giovanni Pettorino has said that the Coast Guard rescued 55,000 unaccompanied children between 2015 and 2018.
"Between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018, the Coast Guard rescued 55,000 unaccompanied minors in the central Mediterranean. This is a significant figure, behind which lie so many tragedies. Everyone has different opinions but no one can look away from this reality which is affecting children," Admiral Giovanni Pettorino said on Thursday in Naples. Admiral Pettorino is the commander of the port authorities corps of the Italian Coast Guard.
Experience that affected crew the most
"These unaccompanied minors, who later disembarked on our coasts," Pettorino said, "were very young. I am talking about children of 3 years old, 4, 8 and 10. It really affects you, seeing their reality, children who are arriving with so much suffering behind them. I believe that this is one of the experiences that affected our crews the most."
Pettorino went on to praise the help the coast guard received from UNICEF, members of which accompanied the coast guard on board their ships during operations. "UNICEF's expertise was very important to us," Pettorino explained.
UNICEF Italy chief calls for Nobel Prize to Coast Guard
"Fifty-five thousand unaccompanied minors, rescued by the Coast Guard at sea since 2015, is a disturbing figure that cannot but make us reflect," said Andrea Iacomini, spokesman of the Italian branch of UNICEF.
"I find myself celebrating,'' Iacomini continued, "these men and woman because through their work - which is unique the world over - they have avoided the massacre of innocents much worse than those we have been seeing daily for years." Iacomini added that he bowed before these people for their work.
"Let's stop for a second to think about what, from where and why these children flee. We have not done this enough. The Italian Coast Guard, in the 30th year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, are an eyewitness to many tales of desperation, hunger, injustice, and poverty for which history will hold us accountable at some point. This is why they deserve the Nobel Peace Prize,'' Iacomini concluded.