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Save the Children calls for safe passage

Monday, 18 April 2016

One year on from the dramatic shipwreck between Libya and Sicily which claimed the lives of up to 800 people, Save the Children condemns the lack of concrete measures to protect children on the move and calls for safe and legal passage for refugees to reach Europe.

Spokespeople, images and case studies available

Since the beginning of 2016, 24,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Italy – four times the amount in the same period in 2015. In just three days last week, 6000 people were rescued and brought to Italy and more than half were children fleeing conflict, persecution and extreme poverty.

Tanya Steele, Save the Children Interim CEO said:

“The lack of concrete measures to protect children who gamble and lose their lives to reach the perceived safety of Europe should weigh on all our minds. A year on from one of the greatest migration tragedies in the Mediterranean, safe and legal routes have not been properly implemented.

"Europe continues to see this migration crisis as primarily about safeguarding its own borders. A third of those desperate enough to make this perilous journey are children. Even though the European Commission has identified children as one of the most vulnerable groups, recommending relocation measures as a priority, in effect, this is only happening on paper.

“This gruesome anniversary must not be purely symbolic. It is an insult to the thousands of men, women and children who have drowned on Europe’s shores if action is not urgently taken to prevent the further loss of human lives. Europe’s leaders must invest in search and rescue at sea and offer safe and dignified means of applying for asylum, in line with its legal obligations.”


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Save the Children are calling for:

1) Moral and legal obligations:

European states need to re-establish their position in the world as global human rights leads under a new framework. They need to share the responsibility at a regional and global level.

Europe must live up to their moral and legal obligations regarding refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, and sharing this responsibility is critical. Save the Children is extremely concerned that EU nations continue to treat the arrivals of refugees and migrants as a security concern that must be stopped and a burden that must be avoided. We would call on EU nations to consider what are the best interests of children and the rights to which they are entitled.

Children now make up 36% of all asylum seekers reaching Europe, and very few measures have been taken to address the needs of children, whether they are travelling alone or with their families.

Individual assessments have to be conducted at all stages of the migration process as this directly affects children. Child protection should be a priority over migration policies or other administrative considerations.

2.) Search and rescue:

Europe must continue to invest in search-and-rescue efforts, which save lives at sea. We must also ensure these operations have the adequate capacity to prevent further deaths in the Mediterranean, as well as respecting the rights and dignity of those taken into European custody.

Standards need to be put in place to ensure that all current and future border operations are transparent and in line with international human rights laws.

3) Create safe and legal routes into Europe

European governments must create safe and legal routes for people fleeing war and persecution who are seeking asylum. We should be working to prevent the loss of life on dangerous journeys and decrease the demand for irregular smuggling and trafficking networks.

It is clear that deterrence policies based on razor-wire fences, intimidating police forces and closed borders will do little to stop desperate people searching for safety.

Safe and legal routes can and should be considered for cross-border migration, more flexible family reunification policies and humanitarian visas and protection for children and their families.

EU countries must take immediate steps to resettle their fair share of the ten percent of the most vulnerable cases, who have been identified by UNHCR. We need to take urgent steps to investigate and address the gaps in national administrative procedures and the ‘hotspots’ that have been identified.