Save the Children demands Europe “restart the rescue” to end child migrant deaths in the Mediterranean

 -      Save the Children launches new migrants campaign   -     All party leaders urged to put pressure on EU to kickstart rescue operation    -   Children tell of torture and beheadings in Libya before making crossing

Save the Children has called on leaders of the UK political parties to commit to “restart the rescue” of thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

In a hard-hitting new campaign launched today [Thursday] the charity is calling on politicians to demand the EU reinstates rescue operations to avoid further deaths in treacherous bids to reach Europe.

The campaign comes after the charity highlighted that as many as 400 people, many of them children, were killed on Monday after a boat capsized after leaving Libya.

The Mare Nostrum European Union search and rescue operation ended in November 2014, leaving only a border patrol in Italian waters. As a result thousands of migrants daily risk death with little hope of rescue as they attempt to reach safety in Europe.

On June 15th, all EU governments will meet in Brussels to endorse the new European Agenda on migration. Save the Children says Britain’s leaders must use this opportunity to push for search and rescue operations and develop a long-term plan to tackle the drivers of children on the move and ensure these children are protected.

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children CEO, said: “Our political leaders cannot ignore the fact that without search and rescue we are allowing thousands of innocent children and their families to drown off the coast of Europe.

“Whoever makes the up the next Government has a moral obligation to work with the EU to restart the rescue. Every migrant child's death is a stain on Europe's conscience. How many thousands must die this summer before Europe acts?”

Rescue operations continue in Italy. Yesterday (WEDS) 11 separate landings were expected across Sicily, Lampedusa and Italy’s Southern borders. According to testimonies collected by Save the Children – who help survivors at a port in Reggio Calabria.

The charity warns that more landings are expected as instability continues in Libya, raising concerns that many more children will brave the perilous journey to find safety in Italy.

Save the Children has been responding to the needs of children arriving in Lampedusa, Sicily, Calabria and Apulia and is deeply concerned at the reports of violence experienced and witnessed by children in Libya.

One 17-year-old Eritrean boy, Brahane*, arriving in Italy in this recent upsurge described his journey to aid workers when he reached safety.

“The first atrocities took place in the desert. There were about thirty of us on a pick-up truck. The drivers and the traffickers took drugs and were always high. When the truck stopped for a break, if you did something they didn’t like, you paid dearly. I saw them spray people with petrol and set fire to them until they died.

“In Libya we only ate once a day. We stopped near Benghazi for a month. We were continuously beaten up, in some cases with iron bars. I saw people cut off the heads of Christian people. On the road to Tripoli, you could see the wrecks of cars burnt by fundamentalist groups. Before we got through, about 61 to 63 people had been killed. Of these, 25 had their heads cut off.

“We lived near Tripoli for four months in a sardine factory. There were more than 1000 of us. If anybody spoke with a friend or a neighbour, they were beaten up. All this, to extort money from us. They made you call home, saying you were dying, and in the meantime they beat you up so that your family could hear the screams.”

Children arriving have experienced harrowing journeys and are in desperate need of psychological support. Adequate care and protection should be provided to all children, in particular those who have suffered violence.

*Named changed to protect the individual

For interviews, please call Save the Children’s media team on: 0207 012 6841 / 07831650409


A full multimedia collection featuring stories from children recently arrived in Italy via the Mediterranean is available here:

2016 update

We're launching our own rescue ship to save thousands of children's lives.

Notes to editors

·       Save the Children runs a ‘Children on the Move’ program across Italy, which aims to identify children’s individual needs and refer them to the appropriate social services to ensure their protection. The agency also monitors the standards of service in the various reception facilities where minors are transferred. 

·       In Rome and Milan, Save the Children provides basic facilities (shower, change of clothes, and food), health services, legal advice, support in contacting family members, and recreational and educational activities for children.

·       The increase in arrivals in April (from 1 to 13 April the total is 7,564 migrants, including 618 children, of which 416 unaccompanied) brings the total number of migrants arrived between 1 January and 13 April 2015 to 17,729, including 1,586 women and 1,520 children (1,029 unaccompanied) – 8% of the total.