Children who are part of a Central American migrant caravan trying to reach the U.S. share their toys and their stories. Some 50 million children around the world are on the move. Much of this migration is positive, with children and their families moving voluntarily and safely. Yet the migration experience for millions of children is neither voluntary nor safe, but fraught with risk and danger. Approximately 28 million children have been driven from their homes by conflict. In many cases, children and families without sufficiently safe and regular pathways to migrate have little choice but to turn to smugglers, traffickers and dangerous informal routes that put their safety at tremendous risk. The perilous Central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy is one such example. This year alone, nearly 15,000 unaccompanied children have reached Italy by sea – their journeys typically facilitated by smugglers and traffickers. UNICEF estimates that more than 400 children have died trying to make this trip since the start of the year, while thousands have suffered abuse, exploitation, enslavement and detention while transiting through Libya.
“For countless children, migration is safe and regular – helping them, their families and communities to grow and transform,” said UNICEF Director of Programmes Ted Chaiban. “But there is another reality for millions of children for whom migration is highly dangerous and not by choice. The Central Mediterranean route is a case in point where thousands of vulnerable children risk their lives every year to reach Europe because safe and regular migration pathways are not available to them.”
Next year will see negotiations and adoption of the Global Compact for Migration, a landmark intergovernmental agreement that will cover all dimensions of international migration. It is a moment for countries to agree on actions that will support migrant children in line with the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.