So Easy to Forget
Fears are rising over the numbers of lone children risking their lives to reach Europe. 125 children were rescued off the Libyan coast on Tuesday by the authorities, aid agencies said.
“The number is incredibly alarming – it is the most that have been picked up in a single day this year and certainly one of the highest we have ever recorded,” said Juliette Touma, Unicef’s regional chief of communications.
The majority of youngsters picked up in the latest rescue are likely to be sent to overcrowded detention centres in Libya, leaving them stuck in a cycle of abuse, humanitarian agencies have warned. An estimated 1,100 children remain in centres lacking clean water, basic hygiene and education, and where violence and exploitation is rife.
“Children should not be arrested and detained as migrants,” said Touma. “We have been following for many years the situation and have interviewed children who have told us about the appalling conditions. We are calling for the Libyan authorities to release all detained children under their custody.”
Libya hosts 51,828 migrant children and an estimated 14,572 refugee children, according to Unicef. Despite the dangers, and the coronavirus pandemic, there has been no decrease in the numbers seeking to reach Europe.
Behind the numbers are people with stories of loss, fear, desperation and hope for a better life. Risking their lives was worth the sacrifice, they said, if it meant the chance of a decent life.
Ibrahim, 15, said he had always dreamed of a good life in Europe. “In Guinea, my family doesn’t have any means. I was born into poverty, I don’t want to die in poverty.