CORRECTED-Record number of solo migrant children, U.N. sees slavery risk

Thu May 18, 2017 6:29pm GMT

(Official correction by UNICEF changing background information in paragraph 10)

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, May 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A record number of refugee and migrant children are travelling solo to escape violence and poverty, falling prey to abuse and human traffickers in their journey to a new life, the United Nations children's agency said on Wednesday.

Be it to escape war in Syria or gang violence in Central America, natural disaster or famine, increasing numbers of children are on the move and are travelling alone, UNICEF said in a report.

About 200,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum across 80 countries from 2015 to 2016 and another 100,000 children were stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border, UNICEF said.

Taken together, 300,000 children travelled alone worldwide from 2015 to 2016 - a five-fold increase since 2010, when 66,000 children were reported to be on the move, UNICEF said.

"Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution," Justin Forsyth, UNICEF deputy executive director, said in a statement.

"It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators."

UNICEF said the central Mediterranean route between north Africa and Italy is one of the world's deadliest, with 4,579 deaths last year, including some 700 children, many from Eritrea, Gambia, Nigeria, Egypt and Guinea.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.