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Step up action before more tragedies unfold in the Mediterranean

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Authorities need to put best interests of children first, says UNICEF

NEW YORK, 20 April, 2015 - “Reports of tragedies on the Mediterranean Sea - leaving hundreds of people, including children, dead or missing – are becoming all too frequent and the human cost all too high.

“Two deadly incidents in just two days on the Mediterranean Sea stress the need for swift, collective and courageous action. Thousands have made perilous journeys to Europe - from men and women, sometimes entire families in search of safety and opportunities in Europe to teenagers and young children - fleeing brutal conflicts back home such as in Syria. At least 1,600 have died so far this year before even stepping foot on European soil.

“Children who find themselves on these journeys are exposed to abuse, exploitation and possibly death and, if they survive, are often placed in unsafe and unsuitable conditions and / or criminalized. This is in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We ask that all actions are guided by the best interests of every one of these children, every step of the way. No matter their refugee or migrant status, children are to be cared for in a safe place - and not in a detention facility - with access to education, health, social and legal services with full implementation of existing safeguards especially for the most vulnerable.

“With the start of the warmer weather in Europe when numbers of migrants are likely to rise, decisive action could avoid more senseless deaths. This means following the EU’s existing safeguards for unaccompanied minors, strengthening search-and-rescue capacities to save and protect lives, prosecuting human traffickers, and tackling the root causes of migration in countries of origin - conflict, poverty and discrimination - to avoid more tragic losses.”


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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For more information, please contact:
Sarah Crowe, UNICEF New York +1-646-209-1590,
Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF New York +1 917-251-7670
Christophe Boulierac UNICEF Geneva +41 22 909 5716 or +41 799 639 244