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Restart the Rescue: Two steps forward, one step back

A rescue worker tends a young migrant girl after she was rescued by a Spanish coast guard vessel in the port of Tarifa
Photo: Sergio Camacho/Getty images

Europe took a small step back from the moral abyss tonight when EU leaders announced tripling the funding for its naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea in response to the tragic deaths of children there.

Equally important were the commitments from national governments to provide extra naval ships to patrol the sea between North Africa and southern Europe.

The UK government in particular is to be commended for sending more ships and equipment than any another country. The Royal Navy’s flagship, HMS Bulwark, as well as two patrol ships and three helicopters, will soon be in the central Mediterranean.

More to be done

These are major breakthroughs but more clarity is urgently needed on the current Triton mission’s mandate. Triton is the EU operation that replaced the larger Mare Nostrum mission by the Italian navy in November.

We warned at the time this reduced operation would lead to more deaths as it was intended primarily as a border patrol off the coast of Europe, rather than a search and rescue operation covering a wider area.

EU leaders did not clarify whether Triton’s purpose has changed and it’s crucial they do this.

National governments need to give Triton an explicit search-and-rescue responsibility and expand the area it covers.

Europe needs to do this within hours to turn this momentum into lives saved at sea.

Powerful movement

Save the Children launched our public campaign to restart rescue operations two days after the deaths of 400 people, including many children, last Tuesday. A further 700 people died after another boat sank Sunday.

We’ve been asking the UK public to sign our petition to all Britain’s party leaders urging them to push the EU to act.

At the same time we’ve been lobbying politicians to back our campaign which has led to broad support across the political spectrum.

Your support has made this happen.

Together, we’ve built a powerful coalition demanding action on behalf of children and we won’t rest until Europe does everything it can to stop children drowning at sea.

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