If current trends continue, 2,500 children could die in the Mediterranean this year unless the EU immediately restarts rescue operations.
Our stark warning comes ahead of an emergency summit of European leaders in Brussels tomorrow – a meeting Save the Children first called for on Sunday.
Justin Forsyth, our CEO, says leaders must restart rescue operations within 48 hours and ensure it’s on the scale of the previous Mare Nostrum mission that was cancelled last year.
Lives in their hands
He said: “EU leaders will hold the lives of thousands of desperate people in their hands when they meet tomorrow.
“With every day that they prevaricate and delay restarting search and rescue operations, the risk grows that more people will die trying to reach Europe.
“We cannot allow 2015 to be the deadliest year in the Mediterranean yet. We must get agreement at Thursday’s meeting to scale search and rescue back up to 2014 levels.
“Even one boat that sinks is one too many, but the escalating number of people dying off Italy’s shores brings home the urgent need to act.”
Save the Children launched our public campaign to restart rescue operations two days after the deaths of 400 people, including many children, last Tuesday. A further 700 people are feared death after another boat sank Sunday.
We’ve been asking the UK public to sign our petition to all Britain’s party leaders urging them to push the EU to act. Our spokespeople have also been hitting the airwaves in order to push this critical issue to the top of the media agenda.
At the same time we’ve been lobbying politicians to back our campaign which has led to broad support across the political spectrum. And today, the campaign got a further boost when eminent Europeans lent their support by writing to EU leaders.
The signatories of the letter include:
- former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga,
- former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt,
- former EU Commissioner and Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten,
- former Italian prime minister Massimo D’Alema,
- George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations,
- former NATO Secretary General and EU High Representative, Javier Solana
Together with our supporters we’ve built a powerful coalition demanding action on behalf of children and we won’t rest until Europe reverses the shameful decision made last year to close down the Mare Nostrum operation and restarts the rescue.
At the same time, Save the Children teams in Italy are doing all they can to help the survivors of these tragic sinkings in the Mediterranean, many of whom are in desperate need of support.
Gemma Parkin, on the ground in Sicily says: “Children arriving off the boats are exhausted and traumatised from the ordeal they have been through, not just at sea but also during their long and dangerous land journeys.
“But they also tell us they are grateful to be alive and in a safe place – they know they are the lucky ones.”
It’s critical not only to restart search and rescue operations, but to make sure vulnerable migrants – especially unaccompanied minors and families arriving with children – receive the support they need.
You can still sign our petition to UK party leaders.