Many of these children make the harrowing trek unaccompanied, the report points out, calling for increased awareness and action as the number of child migrants crossing the Mediterranean is expected to increase during the summer season.
"More than 9 out of 10 refugee and migrant children arriving in Europe this year through Italy are unaccompanied, prompting UNICEF to warn of the growing threats of abuse, exploitation and death facing them," UNICEF said in a press release announcing the report.
The report stated that 1,015,078 refugees arrived in Europe by sea in 2015, including 265,388 children, based on estimates from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Another 206,199 people arrived by sea in Europe between January 1 and June 4, 2016 -- 35 percent of whom were children, the report said.
On top of fleeing violence and instability, tens of thousands of refugee children "risk detention, rape, forced labour, beatings or death," while journeying to Europe, according to the report.
It goes on to mention claims of sexual assault saying, "Italian social workers claim that both girls and boys are sexually assaulted and forced into prostitution while in Libya, and that some of the girls were pregnant when they arrived in Italy, having been raped."
Even after refugee children land in Europe they are still vulnerable, the report highlights, since they are often housed in temporary centers.
“Children in these centres do not always have access to mainstream schooling, adequate psychosocial support or regular recreational activities.”
Very little official tracking or data exists on migrant children en route to Europe.
UNICEF calls for addressing the roots of the refugee crisis in order to prevent what it refers to as a "never-ending movement of children in search of a better life."
"Unless these drivers of migration are addressed as a global priority, they will lead to a never-ending movement of children in search of a better life. Investing in children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable, must be a priority in order to tackle the cycle of poverty and conflict that is driving so many to flee their homes.”