As G7 leaders gather in Taormina, Sicily, UNICEF urges them to adopt six-point action agenda to keep refugee and migrant children safe.
At least 200 children lost at sea trying to reach Italian shores so far this year
As G7 leaders gather in Taormina, Sicily, UNICEF urges them to adopt six-point action agenda to keep refugee and migrant children safe
TAORMINA, Italy, 25 May 2017 – At least 200 children have died along the dangerous Central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy so far this year – a rate of more than one child per day – according to the latest estimates from UNICEF. The updated child death figures come as leaders of G7 countries gather in Sicily, a major locus for the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe.
Data for 2017 shows that an increasing number of refugees and migrants, including children, are taking the perilous Central Mediterranean route to reach Europe, despite the journey’s inherent risks. Between 1 January and 23 May, more than 45,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Italy by sea – an increase of 44 per cent over the same period last year. This includes some 5,500 unaccompanied and separated children – an increase of 22 per cent from 2016 – who account for approximately 92 per cent of all children arriving to Italy via the Central Mediterranean route.
“More children are braving the Central Mediterranean route to reach Italy which means that more children are literally dying to get there,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth. “A record high 26,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived to Italy last year, but if current trends hold, that record will be smashed in 2017. That is not a record to be proud of, but a reminder of our collective failure to ensure the safety and wellbeing of refugee and migrant children.”
Earlier today, on the eve of the G7 Summit, children, volunteers, the Italian coastguard, Italian and UNICEF officials took part in a symbolic rescue of paper boats to commemorate the thousands of children who have risked their lives crossing the Central Mediterranean and send a message to the G7 to take action to safeguard children on the move.
At least 36,000 of the refugees and migrants rescued since January have been taken to Sicily, the site of the 2017 summit, and the Italian G7 Presidency has made migration a priority for this year’s talks.
“Sicily stands as a symbol of hope for uprooted children seeking a better life, but it is also the endpoint of an extremely dangerous journey that has claimed the lives of many children along the way,” said Forsyth. “It is fitting then that G7 leaders are meeting in a place so steeped in symbolism and meaning for what has become one of the greatest crises of our time. This is their moment to show true leadership in adopting a concrete policy plan that will help keep refugee and migrant children safe.”
In the run-up to the G7 Summit, UNICEF has met the G7 Sherpas in their capitals, urging them to support Italy’s leadership and to adopt the UNICEF six-point Agenda for Action for the protection of refugee and migrant children. The agenda includes:
- Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence;
- End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives;
- Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status;
- Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services;
- Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants;
- Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.
In addition to the Agenda for Action, UNICEF has also launched a campaign urging the public to stand in solidarity with refugee and migrant children uprooted by war, violence and poverty. The “#AChildIsAChild” campaign, featuring a large billboard in the center of Taormina with the message ‘G7 Leaders, protect migrant and refugee children’, has so far been supported on social media by more than 2 million people.
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UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.
1. Paper boats being put in the sea from a Unicef boat
2. Paper boats at sea
3. Children running in the water to rescue the paper boats
4. Girls running toward the seashore with paper boats in their hands
5. Children with paper boats in their hands
6. Paper boat at sea being picked up
7. Patoumatta Drammeh nigerian unaccompanied minor guest of Asante Centre in Palermo
8. Justin Forsyth, Unicef Deputy Executive Director together with Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando and children
9. Justin Forsyth, Unicef Deputy Executive Director and Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando with children clapping
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Justin Forsyth, Unicef Deputy Executive Director, “We have had hundreds of children from Palermo here, it’s a moment of joy and symbolism. The real tragedy is that these are just paper boats but out on the sea only a few miles from here, are thousands of people some of whom are drowning, children have drowned in the last week and months probably 30 yesterday”.
11. Wide shot of paper boats being put in the sea from a Unicef boat
12. Paper boats being put in the sea
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Justin Forsyth, Unicef Deputy Executive Director, “World leaders can do something about this tragedy – this massacre that is happening at sea as we speak, thousands of people they can take action, to stop these mothers, to stop these children, these fathers, drowning and they can help these children have a future, an education and make sure they are looked after, many are travelling alone and we need action from the G7 leaders”.
14. Children running in the water to rescue the paper boats
15. Girls with paper boats in their hands
16. SOUNDBITE (Italian) Vincenzo Caruso, 9 Palermo school boy “We had to go into the sea with our shorts up to our knees and rescue the little boats that were put in the sea by UNICEF boats. These small boats represented the migrants and we had to save them”.
17. Pan left with children in the water to rescue the paper boats
18. Children in the water to picking up paper boats
19. SOUNDBITE (Italian) Vincenzo Caruso, 9 Palermo school boy, “It was beautiful to hear (migrants) speaking other languages because this makes you want to get to know them”.
20. Pan left from doctor Pietro Bartolo from Lampedusa to Justin Forsyth, Unicef Deputy Executive Director speaking
21. Favour Goodluck nigerian unaccompanied minor guest of Asante Centre in Palermo holding a speech
22. Favour Goodluck awarding doctor Pietro Bartolo of Unicef Goodwill Ambassador title
23. Pietro Bartolo holding Unicef Goodwill Ambassador title plaque
24. SOUNDBITE (Italian) Dr Pietro Bartolo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador “Just last night we had a little girl, 13, very beautiful girl from Eritrea, that arrived on her own, she had probably been raped because when I asked her she started to cry”.
25. Pietro Bartolo Unicef Goodwill Ambassador speaking
26. Unaccompanied minor from Asante Centre in Palermo listening
27. SOUNDBITE (Italian) Dr Pietro Bartolo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador “Their travels don’t last one month, they can last for years and during these years they are exploited, raped, tortured and abused. It is inhumane, it is not acceptable. It cannot go on”.
28. Mohamed Diabate unaccompanied minor from Asante Centre in Palermo holding a speech
29. Pull focus from a Coastguard official to Mohamed Diabate speaking
30. wide shot of Mohamed Diabate unaccompanied minor from Asante Centre in Palermo holding a speech with Pietro Bartolo at his right
31. SOUNDBITE (English) Numu Toaray, 17, Gambia “It is sad for me but my blame is back at home, not what happened what has given people the mind to take this risky way. This is where my mind is always”.
32. Wide shot of boats at sea and children on the beach
33. Coast guard officials
34. SOUNDBITE (English) Numu Toaray, 17, Gambia “They, themselves know it’s dangerous, I know it’s dangerous but if you have a lion behind you and you feel like when you throw yourself in the sea I may survive I may die you are going for the sea because there are two possibilities. So when there is one you don’t mind to stay there. So my blame always goes to the people that is back at home, the leaders that don’t change their way or ruling”.
35. Italian teenagers and unaccompanied minors together greeting
36. Medium shot of Italian teenagers and unaccompanied minors together greeting
37. Various areal images of the stunt at Sant’Erasmo beach
Earlier today - on the eve of the G7 Summit of world leaders in Sicily - hundreds of Italian and migrant children, the Italian coastguard, volunteers, Italian officials and UNICEF took part in a symbolic rescue of paper boats to send a message to the G7 to take action to safeguard children on the move.
The paper boats, representing the flimsy and fragile boats that thousands of migrants take on their attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea, were released into a bay in Sant’Erasmo beach in Palermo, Italy by a number of six small vessels and saved by a couple of hundred local children together with some newly arrived migrant children and volunteers. The boats contained messages to the Pope and to world leaders at the G7 to take find urgent solutions for vulnerable children exposed to preventable risks every day.
The event comes just a day after (24th May) yet another tragedy at sea when at least 34 migrants, some of them young children, drowned after falling into the sea off the Libyan coast, according to Italian coastguard. Increasing numbers of children are risking their lives to get to Europe, and an estimated 200 have died this year alone.
Many of the paper boats, were not saved but were overturned and sank in the water in a reminder of the vessels migrants take on the crossing.