Italian naval forces are searching for as many as 400 people, many of whom are thought to be unaccompanied children, missing after a boat carrying 550 people capsized 24 hours after departing Libya, Save the Children reports.
The children’s charity warns that more landings are expected as instability continues in Libya, raising concerns that many more, including children, will brave the perilous journey to find safety in Italy.
Save the Children has expressed a deep concern with the reports of violence experienced and witnessed by children in Libya.
While not one of today’s survivors, one 17-year-old boy recently described his journey to aid workers when he reached safety.
“We lived near Tripoli for four months in a sardine factory. There were more than 1,000 of us. We ate only once a day and we could not do anything. If anybody spoke with a friend or a neighbour, they were beaten up. All this, to extort money from us. They made you call home, saying you were dying, and in the meantime they beat you up so that your family could hear the screams,” said Brahane, a 17-year-old Eritrean boy after landing in Sicily.
The last incident follows a sharp rise in the number of migrants arriving on the shores of Italy.
“Rescue at sea of migrants must be a priority for Italy and for Europe, and the European Union should strengthen its capacity for search and rescue missions, as more people risk and lose their lives making these perilous journeys,” Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said.
“Children arriving have experienced harrowing journeys and are in desperate need of psychological support. Adequate care and protection should be provided to all children, in particular those who have suffered violence.”
500 people have died in these migrant crossings so far this year, a sharp increase compared to 47 deaths reported for the same period last year.
Just this Monday, the Italian Coast Guard rescued over 2,800 migrants from 5 boats, with one migrant reported as dead.
The latest surge brings the total number of migrants arriving to Europe via the Mediterranean this year to over 15,000.