EU foreign ministers are dithering as children drown after they failed to agree immediate action to set up a European search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean at a meeting in Luxembourg today.
While we strongly welcomed the decision to convene am emergency summit of EU prime ministers and presidents on Thursday, if trends continue, delaying the start of operations by three days could cost a thousand lives.
Save the Children staff in Italy learned late on today (Monday) that no women or children were believed to have survived yesterday’s major shipwreck, in which up to 700 people are feared dead.
A matter of life and death
According to anecdotal testimony from a survivor, there were approximately 200 women and several dozen children on board.
Our CEO Justin Forsyth said: “What we needed from EU foreign ministers today was life-saving action, but they dithered. The emergency summit on Thursday is now a matter of life and death.
“With each day we delay we lose more innocent lives and Europe slips further into an moral abyss. Right now, people desperately seeking a better life are drowning in politics. We have to restart the rescue – and now.”
As more boats sank today and more children lost their lives, the 28 EU foreign ministers failed to take decisive action on this critical issue.
Ships at sea not warm words
What we needed on search and rescue was an immediate commitment to put ships to sea. But what we got was an acknowledgement that they are important.
Longer-term strategies are important, but they will not save any of the lives hanging in the balance today and in the coming days.
Thursday’s emergency EU Council meeting, which we called for on Sunday, is now a make-or-break moment.
Our teams are there
Save the Children teams are currently at the port in Catania, Sicily, where the 28 confirmed survivors from Sunday’s boat sinking are due to arrive later today.
We’ve also been responding to the needs of children arriving in the Italian island of Lampedusa and the regions of Calabria and Apulia. We’re deeply concerned at the reports of violence they have experienced and witnessed in Libya
It’s critical to not only restart search and rescue operations, but to make sure vulnerable migrants – especially unaccompanied minors and families arriving with children – receive the support they need.