Save the Children demands European search and rescue operation

Save the Children demands immediate set up of a European search and rescue operation

Monday, 20 April 2015 - 5:28pm

Save the Children has accused EU Foreign Ministers of 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 the charity strongly welcomed the decision to convene a heads of state summit on Thursday of this week, it warned that 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 Monday that no women or children were believed to have survived Sunday’s major shipwreck, in which up to 700 people are feared dead. According to anecdotal testimony from a Bangladeshi survivor, there were approximately 200 women and several dozen children on board.

Save the Children CEO Justin Forsyth says: “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 immoral 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, politicians at the Foreign Affairs Council failed to take decisive action on this critical issue. What we needed on search and rescue was ships at sea - what we got was an acknowledgement that they are important. Longer-term strategies are important, but they will not save any of the lives currently hanging in the balance. The emergency EU Council meeting, which Save the Children called for on Sunday, will now be the make or break moment.

Save the Children’s response team are currently at the port in Catania, where the 28 confirmed survivors from Sunday’s boat sinking are due to arrive later today.

The organisation 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

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For interviews with Save the Children staff in Italy or the UK, please call the press team on: +44 207 012 6841 / +44 7831650409