A Third Of Migrants Crossing From Turkey To Greece Are Children

60 children last month died on the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea

File photograph shows a volunteer carrying a Syrian refugee child. — REUTERS
Feb 03, 2016 at 4:24 PM ET

For the first time since the start of the ongoing refugee crisis, the majority of migrants who leave their homes, cross international borders and board boats heading from Turkey to Greece across the Mediterranean Sea are women and children, UNICEF said on Tuesday.

It’s a shocking shift in the demographics of migrants who are on the move, particularly given harsh winter conditions. Children now comprise a much higher percentage of those traveling by sea than they did just six months ago, according to the new report by UNICEF, the United Nation’s program for women and children.

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“The implications of this surge in the proportion of children and women on the move are enormous—it means more are at risk at sea, especially now in the winter, and more need protection on land,” Marie Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said.

More than one third of the migrants who cross the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece are children, UNICEF reported. Compare that to June, when 73 percent of all migrants were men and only one in 10 were younger than 18, the AFP reported.

Nearly 60 percent of migrants who travel from Greece to Macedonia, which has served as a key transit route among migrants seeking to reach western Europe, are women and kids, UNICEF said.

The fact that there are more children trekking Turkey to Greece means they face great risk of dying at sea. At least 60 children died while making the journey last month, raising the death toll among minors who drowned in the waters to 330 over the last five months combined, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday. “The worst month for these fatalities was December, when 82 children under the age of 18 died in the Eastern Mediterranean, many of them infants and toddlers,” the IOM said.

For those who make it safely to shore, grave dangers remain. Children often travel alone, and they are especially vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking, Europol said on Sunday. About 26,000 child migrants arrived in Europe last year without any family, Save the Children has said. More than 10,000 children who were registered in Europe over the last 18 months had disappeared, according to Europol.