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Response to alternative Christmas message

Friday, 25 December 2015

Save the Children response to the message from Abdullah Kurdi, father of Alan Kurdi, on Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message

Justin Forsyth, CEO Save the Children, said:

“No child should have to risk – or lose – their life on a treacherous sea crossing. One million refugees and migrants have crossed to Europe in 2015 and a quarter of them are children. Almost four months since the tragic death of Alan Kurdi shocked the world, too little has been done to make this desperate journey any safer for children.

“The British Navy rescued thousands of people by deploying HMS Bulwark during the summer months, but given the magnitude of the current crisis, the EU must sustain an adequate search and rescue operation. Saving people from drowning must be the priority.

“The need for increased protection for children in transit, and for safe and legal routes for refugees to come to Europe is crucial, so that people who have already suffered so much do not have to risk their lives yet again. More than 3,500 refugees, including children, have died at sea so far this year on their way to Europe.

“EU states share a responsibility to protect and care for the most vulnerable refugees and migrants, including children, who arevictims of violence, torture, abuse and persecution, and have fled conflicts such as in Syria. These refugees are victims, and have suffered enough.”

Quotes from Syrians on arrival in Europe, taken by Save the Children response staff:

“I didn’t want to leave Syria, I am a teacher. My work is valuable, not in terms of money maybe but because of the knowledge it gives. People would stop me in the street and shake my hand and say, you’re my teacher. Living in Syria was very dangerous. Seeing a man killed in the street, without a head, without legs became normal for my children, they got used to it. Once we walked in the street and a car exploded. The children saw a man explode into little pieces.” (Ahmed, male, 42, Syria)

“I could see Greece but the engine was breaking down and I didn’t think that we would make it. I thought, is that really a child on this boat that is filling with water? And how can children be forced to do travel like this? I don’t care about me, but why children?” (Amal, male, 23, Syria)

“He stopped the boat 30 metres away from the shore and told us all to get out and swim to Greece. But I had my 18 month old baby, so I said no. The smuggler picked up my child and threw him into the water so everyone would jump in. When I was in the water, I kept screaming. When I was studying medicine in university, never did I think that one day, someone would throw my baby into the sea.” (Dr. Abeer, female, 29, Syria)

“My favourite thing in Syria used to be school and parks and being safe. But now, there is war, killing and destruction. Many children have been killed Syria. And whole families killed too. We ran away after our home was hit by four missiles. I stopped going to school because I was too scared. The last time I have been to school was three years ago. I would love to go back to school when I reach Europe.” (Fatima, female, 13, Syria)

Notes to Editors:

Save the Children calls on European states to strengthen child protection as a crucial part of their response to the migrant and refugee crisis through the following recommendations:

Prioritise the immediate protection and humanitarian needs of children and their families: This includes the right to have their individual claims to international protection assessed – in line with refugee and human rights laws – while providing access to proper shelter, food and healthcare.

Avoid the criminalisation or detention of children because of their or their parents’ migration status, and ensure their best interests are always prioritised when considering their return or deportation. Their best interests should also be the primary consideration when it comes to family tracing and reunification, and reintegrating them in their countries of origin. Appropriate safeguards in compliance with international standards should be in place when repatriating children.

Speed up relocation of refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU countries,and develop specific protection mechanisms for children, in line with child protection principles.

Offer more safe and legal routes into Europe: Strengthen and expand resettlement schemes, support humanitarian admission programmes – including humanitarian visas, increased flexibility in family reunification processes, private sponsorship programmes and student scholarship schemes. Priority should be given to children, either unaccompanied or with families, and the best interest of the child should always take precedence over policies and procedures.

Develop a comprehensive approach and strategy to protect all children involved in migration: This includes ensuring that every boy and girl seeking asylum has the right to a ‘best interest assessment’ and an individual screening for their specific protection needs, ensuring minimum standards on services are met and monitored, and guidelines on child-sensitive approaches are developed and staff trained accordingly.

Tackle the root causes when cooperating with third countries: Save the Children calls on world leaders to prioritise finding an end to the conflict and violence in Syria. Leaders should also step up the cooperation and regional responses with and in Sub Saharan Africa and the Middle East to tackle some of the root causes which make people flee, while dramatically increasing funding for the regions of origin, so that the humanitarian response is sufficiently funded.

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