Phil Carroll 267.992.6356 (M)
Fairfield, Conn. (April 21, 2015) — If current trends continue, 2,500 children could die in the Mediterranean this year unless politicians immediately restart rescue operations, Save the Children warns.
The charity is calling on European Union leaders meeting in Brussels Thursday to agree to restart search and rescue operations off the coast of Italy within 48 hours, on the scale of the previous Mare Nostrum operation.
Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children, says: "EU leaders 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 as they try 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."
In the latest news from Sunday's tragedy, which saw approximately 820 people drown when their boat sank, Save the Children staff in Italy have learned that 60 adolescents were on board.
Four boys who said they were under the age of 18 survived the journey and are staying in a building used as reception centre for children in Italy.
Gemma Parkin, on the ground in Sicily with Save the Children, 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."
The charity has been responding to the needs of children arriving in Lampedusa, Sicily, Calabria and Apulia and is deeply concerned at the reports of violence they have experienced and witnessed in Libya.
It is 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.
Every day, children around the world are severely affected by crises and events which are out of their control. No one knows when, or where, the next crisis will occur. For nearly 100 years, Save the Children has been on the front lines of emergency and humanitarian responses around the world. Our Children’s Emergency Fund was established to provide assistance to children in their time of greatest need.