By Neil Sears
London - Sitting on a crowded rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean, a Nigerian girl of 11 wails for her dead mother.
Her brave little brother does his best to comfort her, putting his own grief to one side.
The youngsters’ misery was caught on camera off the coast of Libya hours before it emerged that migrant deaths at sea had soared to 3 034 this year already. Successful arrivals shot up on last year too, to more than 250 000. The weeping girl told the photographer her name was Dustin and that her mother had died in Libya.
She and her ten-year-old brother were waiting to be rescued by a Spanish charity after being found on an overcrowded craft abour 23km off the Libyan coast on Thursday. The migrants were due to be ferried back to Libya, but were expected to keep trying to make the perilous journey. Although unlikely to be given asylum, as unaccompanied children they would be likely to be allowed to stay in Europe.
The figures on migrant deaths came from the International Organisation for Migration, which said the discovery of 39 bodies on Libyan shores this week raised the total Mediterranean migrant fatalities to 3 034 this year.
The IOM said more than a quarter of a million migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe by sea this year, the vast majority in Greece and Italy. This is an increase of more than 30 000 from the same point last year.
Save the Children has warned that lone youngsters making the trip are at risk of a host of dangers, including being forced into prostitution and hard labour.
The charity said: “Girls as young as 13 are being tricked into believing they will secure jobs like babysitting, waitressing or hairdressing – sometimes by their own teachers and boyfriends – but are then forced into prostitution, made to sell sex, and subjected to physical, sexual and emotional violence.”