Thousands of Vulnerable Unaccompanied Children Arriving on Mediterranean Rescue Boats

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Francine Uenuma 202.450.9153 (M)

Fairfield, Conn. (June 9, 2015) — Italy is struggling to cope with the needs of vulnerable unaccompanied children, who have made the dangerous journey to Europe alone. At least 3,358 children have arrived without family or guardians since the start of the year.

Unaccompanied children are at the greatest risk from people traffickers. Some are being forced into manual labour, domestic work, drug smuggling and prostitution.

Save the Children spoke to seven lone Nigerian girls who arrived on HMS Bulwark on Monday night – they had not paid money for their journey and did not know they were in Italy, suggesting they may have been trafficked.

It is crucial that vulnerable children like these are placed in safe centres where they can be protected. But Italy’s migrant children’s centres are overwhelmed with the demand and finding appropriate places for unaccompanied minors – including in terms of identification of the best long term solution for them - is increasingly difficult.

“European governments showed leadership by supporting the Italian government in rescue operations in the Mediterranean – but they must think about what happens to vulnerable children when they get off the boats,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children. “For many of these children, their journey has only just begun. We have a brief window of opportunity to save them from people traffickers when they land in Italy, before they disappear into a criminal underworld. Italy must be given more support to protect every unaccompanied child, at the point of arrival, and beyond. EU governments must share the responsibility for the care and protection of vulnerable children who cross the Mediterranean – especially victims of trafficking and violence.”

To prevent thousands of vulnerable migrants – including children – from becoming victims of violence, abuse, exploitation, and risking their lives to make the perilous journey to Europe, Save the Children is calling on Member States to strengthen resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, as well as other safe and legal routes for migration to the EU.

Save the Children is working in Sicily (including Lampedusa), Calabria and Apulia, providing support to children and families as they arrive, including legal advice. In Rome and Milan, where many migrants travel through, Save the Children runs day centres and night shelters for vulnerable young people.

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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