Lone migrant kids making deadly dash across Mediterranean have doubled this year
The number of children risking their lives on the deadly sea crossing between North Africa and Italy has more than doubled this year.
Desperate families are sending their kids across the Mediterranean knowing they cannot be legally sent home.
More than 11,500 children have reached Italy in small boats and rubber dinghies.
They account for 15% of the 77,000 arrivals this year, according to the United Nations.
Most are fleeing war and poverty in countries including Eritrea, Somalia, Gambia and Nigeria.
Many have faced rape, torture and extortion after being put at the mercy of Libyan traffickers for months.
They have then braved the perilous crossing between Libya and Italy which has claimed more than 2,500 lives this year.
Officials say families are risking their children’s safety in the rush to get to Europe as borders close and governments clamp down on illegal migration.
Charity Oxfam said Sicily, where many of the boats arrive, is buckling under the pressure of processing the number of children, some of whom are as young as 11.
Italian authorities say they are struggling with the influx of youngsters and some are getting lost in the registration system.
Giovanna Scifo, who works at a centre for migrants, said: “In the last days there has been an emergency as we have many more minors arriving – sometimes triple what we are used to. And it goes up every year.”
Young migrants helped there told of nightmare ordeals.
Abdul, 16, from Gambia, said: “I saw many dead bodies on the desert road into Libya.”