More than 70 children have drowned trying to get to Greece since Aylan Kurdi

More than 70 children[1] have drowned trying to reach Greece since Aylan Kurdi’s tragic death almost two months ago, including seven children believed to have lost their lives on Wednesday night. As large numbers of refugees and migrants continue to make the dangerous journey during the winter months that number is set to rise, Save the Children warns.

Winter weather is making the sea crossing more risky and children are often soaking wet and freezing when they are brought ashore, leading to a very real risk of hypothermia given the lack of shelter in the transit camps. Staff report seeing children shivering with blue hands and lips and there have already been several cases requiring hospital treatment.

Thousands of families are still making desperate attempts to flee Syria and other countries, despite some European countries shutting their borders. Between January and October 2015 more than half a million people arrived on the Greek islands, up nearly 1,370 percent on the whole of 2014.  There are still up to 8,000 people arriving every day in Greece and 23 percent of them are children, who are often unable to swim and do not have proper lifejackets.

For those who do make it to the islands, the conditions in the camps are dangerous for young children, some of whom are becoming separated from their families in the chaotic registration process. They are already reporting that they are too cold to sleep at night without proper shelter or warm clothes, and temperatures are expected to drop as low as -4 degrees as winter conditions set in.

Kate O’Sullivan, Save the Children response staff in Lesvos said: “To have the small bodies of babies and children carried ashore or washed up on these idyllic beaches is devastating. Though the crossing from Turkey to Greece is short, the waters are increasingly dangerous and sadly we’re going to see more of these needless deaths. What we need are safe and legal routes for refugees to come to Europe, to stop people who have already suffered so much losing their lives close to the end their journey.”

“For the families that do make it to Lesvos and other islands, the government and charities like ours are providing what we can but there are thousands of new arrivals every day and there just is not enough shelter or food for everyone. I have seen children sleeping in the mud under a flimsy bit of cardboard, and kids shivering with blue lips and hands. We expect the situation to get much worse as winter really bites.”

Save the Children is preparing winter kits for families arriving in Greece, which include blankets and clothes. The charity is also distributing cooked meals to thousands of people every day and running special temporary centres for children and nursing mothers.

Save the Children is calling for more resources and immediate support to ensure that people arriving in Europe are not dying of hypothermia and exposure, as well as the creation of well-managed safe and legal routes for refugees and migrants. The charity is particularly concerned about approximately 12,000 unaccompanied children who have made the journey to Europe this year alone, and are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and violence. Facilities to support these children in Greece and Italy are overwhelmed; Save the Children has asked the British government to relocate at least 3,000 unaccompanied children who are already in Europe.

For more information or interviews with staff in Greece and the UK, please call Save the Children’s media team on +44 207 012 6841 / +44 7785527663

Download new photos from Greece here

Notes to editors

·       548,344 refugees and migrants have arrived by sea to Greece since January 2015; 2014 had a total of 40,000 arrivals.

·       Between the 17 and 21 October, there were 48,000 arrivals on the Greek islands; more than the total for all of 2014. There were between 9,000- 10,000 arrivals each day. Lesvos had 27,276 during this period and Chios had 9,750.

·       66% are from Syria, 21% Afghanistan, 6% from Iraq, 3% from Pakistan, 1% from Somalia and 4% from other countries

·       In Greece, Save the Children has now reached 130,276 people, including 32,757 children. (25% of total reach is children).  

·       As of 20 October, more than 643,408 people have crossed the Mediterranean so far in 2015

·       More than 3,135 refugees and migrants have died or have gone missing in the Mediterranean this year

·       In Italy, 138,000 refugees and migrants have arrived this year, including 9,230 children who have arrived alone this year, without any parents or families at all



On Lesvos, we are:

  • Distributing one cooked meal a day to hundreds of people – so far we’ve fed more than 100,000 refugees, including 23,000 children.
  • Running a ‘child friendly space’ for children in the Moria temporary camp
  • Running Mother and Baby areas in Moria and Kara Tepe where women can breastfeed in a hygienic and private space and get basic supplies for their baby.
  • Providing transport for people arriving on boats in the north of the island to registration centres in the south.
  • Preparing for the distribution of winter kits including blankets, warm clothes and waterproofs

On the Macedonia border, we are:

·         Setting up a 24-hour child friendly space where vulnerable children can be identified and kids can play and shelter from the elements

·         Distributing essential items like blankets and torches

In Athens, we are:

·         Running a shelter for unaccompanied refugee and migrant children (primarily boys aged 11-16) through our partner Praxis.

On Kos and Leros, we have built temporary water and sanitation facilities.

On Samos and Chios, we are:

  • Setting up a new programme after conducting a rapid assessment
  • The team there will be focusing on distributing essential items and running child protection activities, including setting up mobile child friendly spaces.


  • We are running programmes across five regions in total, protecting children as they flee alone or with their families and those children who are trafficked or exploited
  • We are working in almost all the key countries that refugees and migrants travel from in the first place – Syria (inside Syria and Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt), Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Gaza, Niger.
  • We are also working in transit countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Greece and Italy, ensuring the children are protected wherever possible
  • Finally, we work in the countries of arrival, including Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the UK.
  • In Italy we run day centres and night shelters for unaccompanied children, as well as being at the ports in Sicily for every landing to receive children and families.
  • In Sweden, we are running 4 professional centers where unaccompanied and accompanied children can meet psychologists and receive treatment
  • Across the Balkans route, we have teams doing child protection activities, basic healthcare and distributions of essential items like baby kits and winter kits.


[1] According to IOM, 69 children have died making the Greece crossing between 2nd September and 26th October, and another seven were reported to have drowned on 28th October.