World Refugee Day: at least 440 children died while attempting to reach Europe

Since 2018, at least 440 children have died trying to reach Europe and apply for asylum there. This is evident from data released today – on World Refugee Day – by UNITED Against Refugee Deaths, and analyzed by Lost in Europe.

Most of the children have died trying to reach the mainland of Europe from Morocco, Libya and Turkey. European countries have signed several refugee deals in recent years in hopes of controlling the arrival of refugees to Europe, such as the ‘EU-Turkey deal’ in 2016 and the deal between Italy and Libya in 2017. It has been suggested that these deals would also decrease the number of refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean sea. The data released today shows once again that this is not the case.

The number is probably higher
In total, United Against Refugee Deaths documented the deaths of 9,901 people en route to Europe since 2018. Lost in Europe has identified 440 of these deaths as children. Of many of the people who died we do not know who they are or how old they were.

Because UNITED only counts published cases (from multiple sources), the actual number of deaths is probably much higher, and therefore also the number of deceased children probably is. For example, when ’60 deceased men, women and children’ were reported in the UNITED dataset, but the number of children was not specified, this was counted as ‘1 child’ in the Lost in Europe dataset.

Causes of deaths
Children not only die en route, but also after arriving in Europe. There are reports of children dying from fighting or accidents in refugee camps. They die from accidents or suffocation in vans and cars they are smuggled into. There are also reports of children being shot by border police.

Lost in Europe has reported on some of these children over the past year. Abou (15) and Abdallah (17) were picked up from the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the corona crisis, Italy did not let them ashore, but they had to wait another 14 days for a quarantine boat. They were visibly ill, but did not receive medical attention in time.

Fatal Stress
Then there is the story of Fatima, the sister of 14-year-old Ali from Syria. Ali took his own life at the asylum seekers’ center in Gilze, the Netherlands, after he heard that his family’s application for asylum had been rejected. They had to return to Spain, where they had previously lived on the streets in appalling conditions. Lost in Europe is conducting research into self-destructive violence among you asylum seekers, read more in the Fatal Stress file. For World Refugee Day, an in depth story about Fatima and Ali was published, read more here (in Dutch).

Read the full story from Lost in Europe here in Dutch, here in French, here in Greek, and here in Italian.

Photo in header: Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan, by DFID – UK Department for International Development.