Growing concerns over fate of unaccompanied child migrants

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 Author: Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe
Refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, January 2016.

The number of unaccompanied children arriving in northern Italy’s Trieste via the Balkans more than doubled last year, according to the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) annual report for 2023.

Some 3,000 unaccompanied children reached Trieste, which lies close to the borders with Croatia and Slovenia. The upsurge represents a 112% increase compared to the previous year.

The minors account for almost one-fifth of all the migrants IRC and its partners support in Trieste with information on their rights, legal guidance and support in accessing first aid services.

Frontex, the European Union (EU) border agency, notes that the Central Mediterranean continues to be the most active migratory route into Europe. It accounts for 41% of irregular crossings, with the Western Balkans, the second most active route at 26%.

IRC describes the jump in the number of children arriving in Trieste via the Balkan route as “alarming”, coming as they do “without their families or guardians, exposed to neglect, trauma, and both physical and psychological violence, including pushbacks.”

According to the New York-based IRC, 94% of those children travelling alone came from Afghanistan, with 86% of them heading to other European countries, mainly Germany, France and Switzerland.

Disturbingly, the latest available data reveals that over the last three years, some 47 children vanish daily once they arrive in Europe, meaning that the whereabouts of 50,000 children is currently unknown.

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