Ahead of the G7 summit in Sicily on Friday, the UN children’s organisation urged leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations to address the ongoing crisis in the Mediterranean, where growing numbers of children are perishing — more than 200 this year.
“The tragedy of children dying in the Mediterranean is a wake-up call to leaders meeting in Sicily,” said UNICEF’s deputy executive director Justin Forsyth. “These extremely vulnerable children need action now.”
According to the latest estimates from UNICEF, at least 200 children have died while crossing from North Africa to Italy so far this year, a rate of more than one child per day.
At least 36,000 people rescued in the Mediterranean since January have been taken to Sicily, one of the main entry-points for refugees and migrants reaching Europe by sea.
This year’s G7 is taking place in the Sicilian coastal resort of Taormina, 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,” Forsyth said.
His remarks came a day after many young children and toddlers were among 34 people who drowned off the Libyan coast when a wooden boat laden with over 500 migrants listed, sending around 200 into the sea.
Over 50,000 refugees and migrants reached Italy by sea this year through May 23, a 44 per cent surge over the same period of 2016, according to the UN.