We were disheartened, but not surprised, that Unicef’s recent report revealed that 25,800 unaccompanied or separated children arrived in Italy in 2016 – more than double the 12,360 in 2015.
It’s clear to see that the “push factors” (such as the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the civil war in Libya) driving children to take these perilous journeys (just this weekend 100 people drowned whilst crossed the Mediterranean Sea) is so much stronger than any “pull factor” could be. Closing borders simply isn’t the solution. Families would never take the decision to put their children at risk in this way if there was any other alternative.
These children, who mostly arrived from Eritrea, Egypt, the Gambia and Nigeria, remain incredibly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse and we join Unicef in calling for immediate measures to be put in place to protect them.
Part of the solution is for the Italian and UK governments to speed up the process of identifying those children eligible under Dubs Amendment (an amendment to the Immigration bill which passed in 2016 offering sanctuary to unaccompanied refugee children) and under Dublin III (family reunification laws) and bringing them to sanctuary in the UK swiftly.
Help Refugees have recently started funding work to help protect refugees arriving in Italy, with a special focus on unaccompanied children, and we will continue our advocacy work with Lord Dubs and Safe Passage. We look forward to sharing more news with you shortly about our work in Italy.
Photo Credit: Middle East Eye