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The number of child migrants arriving in an Italian city has more than doubled, a report says

ROME — (AP) — The number of unaccompanied children who arrived in the northern Italian city of Trieste through the Balkan migratory route more than doubled last year, an aid group said Thursday.

About 3,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Trieste, which is close to Italy's borders with Croatia and Slovenia, in 2023, according to the International Rescue Committee's annual report. There was a 112% rise compared to the previous year.

The minors represented nearly 20% of all migrants in the city supported by IRC and its partners, which provide them with information on their rights, legal guidance and support in accessing first aid services.

The Central Mediterranean remains the most active migratory route into Europe, European Union border agency Frontex says. The route accounts for 41% of irregular crossings, followed by the Western Balkans, the second most active route with 26% of the crossings.

“There has been an alarming increase in the number of children arriving in Trieste via the Balkan route without their families or guardians, exposed to neglect, trauma, and both physical and psychological violence, including pushbacks,” the IRC noted.

The report highlighted that 94% of children traveling alone came from Afghanistan, and 86% of them were heading to other European countries, mainly Germany, France and Switzerland.

The New York-based IRC stressed that the new data confirm a dangerous trend highlighted in a recent international investigation, which revealed that nearly 47 children, on average, have vanished each day after arriving in Europe over the past three years, leaving the whereabouts of 50,000 children unknown.

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Follow AP's coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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