At least 440 refugee and migrant children have died since 2018 while attempting to come to Europe, according to figures gathered by the non-profit UNITED network.
Among the victims, the two-year-old Mawda Shawri, killed by a police bullet on a Belgian motorway in 2018. And 17-year-old Tran Ngoc Hieu, who suffocated in the back of a lorry travelling from Zeebrugge to Essex in England in 2019.
Most of the victims may die crossing from the Middle East to Greece and Turkey, like three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, the photo of whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach went around the world.
But Belgium has its own refugee problem. The United Kingdom, for various reasons the destination of many migrants, is only a short distance away. The Channel ports in France are even closer, and the crossing shorter.
The trend nowadays is for the human traffickers t bring their prey to Zeebrugge, then transfer them to Dunkirk, where they can be given a cheap life-vest and sent off in a rubber dinghy to brave the waters of the Channel.
Many do not make it, as the empty boats that wash up on the Kent coast attest.
Children are not the only victims, of course. The UNITED database counts 44,764 confirmed fatalities since 1993. How many were lost at sea, no-one will ever know.
“The cases we include in the database are all related to the deadly policy of Fortress Europe,” UNITED director Geert Ates told Knack magazine, one of three Belgian media (with De Standaard and VRT News) in the journalist collective Lost in Europe.
“For example, we also count suicides in detention centres.,” he said. The database is not exhaustive, but Ates estimates that it contains 80%-90% of the deaths.
“However, there are also gaps. For example, nobody has a view of what is happening in some African countries where people are sent back through the desert.”
Lost in Europe went through the 44,764 names and, where possible, counted the number of minors who lost their lives.
Between January 2018 and June 2021, at least 440 children died on their way to Europe, including 35 babies. 33 pregnant women also died.
The vast majority of children died in the Mediterranean, off the coasts of Libya, Turkey and Morocco.