UNICEF: Third of refugees sailing to Greece are children
Children now make up over a third of the migrants making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, the UN said, as two more babies drowned off Europe's shores.
For the first time since the start of the migrant crisis in Europe, there are also now more women and children crossing the border from Greece to FYROM than adult males, according to UN children's agency UNICEF.
The figures emerged as Europe struggles with its biggest movement of people crisis since World War II, with more than a million people fleeing war, violence and poverty risking life and limb to reach its shores last year.
"Children currently account for 36 per cent of those risking the treacherous sea crossing between Greece and Turkey," the UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe said. "Children and women on the move now make up nearly 60 per cent" of those entering from FYROM, she added.
The figures mark a significant shift since June, when 73 per cent of migrants were adult males and only one in 10 were under the age of 18.
Marie Pierre Poirier, UNICEF's special coordinator for the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, said women and children were even more vulnerable to the dangers of trying to travel to Europe.
"The implication of this surge in the proportion of children and women on the move are enormous," she said in a statement. It means more are at risk at sea, especially now in the winter, and more need protection on land."
Underlining her point, the International Organisation for Migration said on Tuesday that one in every five who drowned last month while trying to sail from Turkey to Greece was a child, with minors accounting for 60 of the 272 deaths.
Including January, a total of 330 children have died in the waters over the past five months, many of them just metres from shore, the organisation said.