3 December 2020 - Senegal

Concerns for mental health of thousands of migrant children after dangerous sea crossing to Canary Islands - Save the Children

Marieme* in La Maison Rose, in Dakar, Senegal.

Children being held in overcrowded conditions after twelve-fold rise in number of people making perilous voyage  

Save the Children has warned of concerns for the mental wellbeing of children who are in overcrowded conditions after making the life threatening sea crossing alone from the West African coast to the Canary Islands. More than 2000 children[1] who made it to Spanish soil are unaccompanied and include asylum seekers who fled conflict in the Sahel region. 

These children are among more than 12,000[2] migrants who have arrived, mainly from West African countries, in October and November, Save the Children said. 

Since the start of 2020, more than 18,000[3] migrants in all have arrived in Spain’s Canary Islands after long and perilous journeys across the Atlantic Ocean - nearly a twelve-fold increase compared to the 1,500 people who made the crossing in 2019. Shelters on the islands are overstretched and tourist areas are now being used to host migrants.  

Eric Hazard, Pan-African Campaign and Advocacy Director at Save the Children said, "We are extremely concerned about the physical and mental health of children and young people who have made this very risky and difficult trip between West Africa and Europe recently.   

“This migration crisis is also a child rights crisis: these children are in a difficult situation, having fled poverty or conflict in strenuous journeys over thousands of kilometres. They’re in need of psychological support because of what they have seen and gone through – they have seen people dying on board and being thrown into the sea, they have suffered from a lack of food, and some have experienced violence and separation from their parents. These are all factors that can scar children for life. 

“Providing children with their basic needs and specific care is critical because of their vulnerability and the painful experiences they have undergone in search of a better life – and that’s a right they have. 

“The loss of lives this year is already more than double that of 2019. We strongly urge Spanish authorities to ensure adequate shelter for all children and to identify those most vulnerable. European countries must establish legal, safe routes that will save lives and ensure that children don’t have to turn to smugglers or traffickers just to cross a border. At the same time, governments in West Africa need to tackle the root causes of irregular and dangerous migration by providing all children with a quality education  and vocational training, fighting poverty and  investing in job schemes for  young people to give them hope at home.”  

[1] https://www3.gobiernodecanarias.org/noticias/derechos-sociales-logra-el-compromiso-del-estado-para-la-transferencia-de-fondos-para-atencion-de-menores-inmigrant/ 

[2] https://www.iom.int/news/2020-death-toll-west-africa-sea-route-tops-500-amid-uptick-departures 

[3] https://www.iom.int/news/2020-death-toll-west-africa-sea-route-tops-500-amid-uptick-departures 

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