UNICEF calls for urgent action to avoid further loss of life at sea

The latest shipwreck in the English Channel – where at least 27 people lost their lives - calls for swift and decisive collective action to protect the lives of migrants at sea

26 November 2021
Migrants at the sea

Statement by Afshan Khan, Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe


GENEVA, 26 November 2021 – “I am shocked by the news of the recent shipwreck off the French coast, which claimed the lives of at least 27 people, including children and a pregnant woman.”

“This tragedy – the deadliest on record along the English Channel – is a stark reminder that urgent collective action is needed to stop the avoidable loss of life at sea and prevent similar events from happening again in the future.”

“At least 744 people on the move have lost their lives in Europe since 2014, almost 200 of them in an attempt to cross the Channel. This figure jumps to more than 23,000 if we include deaths recorded in the Mediterranean since 2014, including countless children.”

“Many of the children and families arriving in Europe flee war and conflict. Others escape poverty, violence, discrimination, and abuse, in search of a safer and better future.”

“We, as UNICEF, renew our urgent call to all member states:

  • To scale up search and rescue operations at sea, including safe disembarkation.
  • To provide safe legal pathways to protect children on the move and prevent them from being exposed to dangerous journeys and to violence, abuse, and exploitation by traffickers and smugglers.
  • Not to return asylum-seeking and refugee children to any country unless this is determined to be in their best interest, as per legal standards.
  • To end child immigration detention and keep families together.
  • To protect children in countries of origin, destination and along migration routes by ensuring adequate reception conditions and child-friendly asylum procedures.”

“It is deeply concerning how far we are from realizing the rights of children on the move. UNICEF is ready to scale up its efforts with governments, UN organisations, and EU institutions to provide urgent humanitarian support and protection to children on the move.”

“The death of one child at sea is one too many. We can – and must – work together to protect every child fleeing from conflict, violence, and poverty, everywhere.”

Media contacts

Giovanni Zambello
Tel: +41 79 238 84 29


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook