On 10 May Save the Children launched its ‘still the most shocking second a day’ video, the sequel to the powerful video that was released to draw attention to the conflict in Syria. The video follows the story of a young girl forced to leave behind everything she’s known after a hypothetical war breaks out in the streets of London. The video highlights the terrifying reality for thousands of children fleeing conflict, as seen through a child’s eyes, following the 11-year old Lily as she escapes the UK to embark on a dangerous journey in search of a new life.
Lily is not alone. A total of over 325,000 children now crossed the Mediterranean and Aegean, fleeing war, poverty and persecution in search of a better, safer life. An estimated 340 children have drowned since September, that’s an average of two children a day. In 2015, one third of over a million asylum applications in the EU came from children. Almost all children use illegal routes to reach Europe. Most of them cross the Mediterranean on small boats, mainly from Turkey or Greece, but also from Northern Africa to Italy. According to IOM, about one third of migrants drowning are children. In 2015, over 88,000 unaccompanied children reached Europe, four times as much as in 2013.
After a terrible boat tragedy killed 800 people last year the EU implemented an agenda on migration. Sadly, since then, the situation has not improved. By the end of April nearly 200,000 people had reached Europe, of which 35% were children and 20% were women. Due to restrictions on family reunification laws, women and children often travel alone, making them extremely vulnerable.
Currently about 55,000 refugees are stranded in Greece. Women and children make up the majority of refugees in all the camps in Greece. The proposed relocation and resettlement schemes, meant to ensure protection to the most vulnerable and a fair distribution of asylum-seekers among member states, have failed. Only 1145 out of 160,000 refugees have been relocated from Greece and Italy, while between 35,000 and 40,000 people in Greece are eligible for relocation. 5 677 people have been resettled, out of 22 504 agreed. Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia have still not submitted any pledge. Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia have no yet delivered on their pledges
Children on the move face huge risks, including separation from their parents, sexual abuse and exploitation, extortion by smugglers, violence and trafficking. They experience a severe education gap. Many children go under the radar because they have not been properly identified and registered. Some children burn their fingerprints in order to avoid being registered in the EURODAC system. They run away from the facility centres they are placed in, choosing instead to make the journey on their own. These children are at high risk of becoming victims of exploitation, trafficking and other forms of abuse. A lot of unaccompanied children go missing right before they reach the age of 18. Not only unaccompanied minors are at risk, children travelling with their families often become invisible, and do not receive appropriate services.
Transit and reception centres are often badly equipped with little or no facilities for children. Upon arrival, unaccompanied children are not always automatically assigned a legal guardian or are placed in detention. Detention can amount from a few hours to days or even months, depending on the country. Methods to assess children’s age differ widely between the countries and do not always take the child’s best interests to heart. A lot of countries have problems catching up with the amount of new arrivals, who end up staying in large halls, having a detrimental effect on families, who do not have the privacy required, and especially children who have experienced multiple traumas. Psychosocial care is often lacking. Generally, children are allowed to attend school in EU member states, but newly arrived children have to wait a long time before they can access education, and schools do not have the right systems in place to accommodate large groups of refugee children. Children are often unaware of their rights, and few countries apply child-friendly methods to inform children of their rights and listen to their needs.
In its policy proposals to address the refugee crisis, the EU barely pays any attention to children, while they make up a third of all asylum-seekers reaching Europe. No child should go through the hardships endured by Lily in this video. We are working to make children a top priority for the EU. We cannot afford another lost generation of child refugees. Children should be protected equally wherever they go, so they can grow up to be confident citizens of this world. For more information, read our briefing on the impact of border closures on children, our five point plan, and the report for our Every Last Child campaign.