Saving children stranded on the Mediterranean must be prioritized over politics

Statement attributable to Ms. Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant response in Europe

15 August 2019
Gambian boys walk past a graveyard of ships used by Libyan Smugglers to transport migrants and refugees to Italy, at port next to a government Hot Spot – a reception center that doubles as a lodging station for unaccompanied minors in Pozzallo, Sicily, on May 17, 2016. In the past boats were captured and sent to these grave yards, but due to the high numbers, today they are burned at sea by the coast guard.
UNICEF/UN020020/Gilbertson VII Photo
FILE Photo: Gambian boys walk past a graveyard of ships used by Libyan Smugglers to transport migrants and refugees to Italy, at port next to a government Hot Spot – a reception center that doubles as a lodging station for unaccompanied minors in Pozzallo, Sicily, on May 17, 2016. In the past boats were captured and sent to these grave yards, but due to the high numbers, today they are burned at sea by the coast guard.

GENEVA, 15 August 2019 – “It is unconscionable that once again politics have been prioritized over saving the lives of children who are stranded on the Mediterranean Sea.

“Some 130 children are currently on the Viking Ocean and Open Arms vessels. It is reported that only 11 of the 103 children aboard the Viking Ocean are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

“These children, many of whom have fled poverty, conflict and unthinkable atrocities, have the right to be safe and to be protected. UNICEF is urging that a port of safety be provided immediately so that these children, along with all others on board the two vessels, can safely disembark.

“The tragic loss of life in the Central Mediterranean this summer underscores the immediate need for increased search and rescue efforts. Rescuing vulnerable children, women and men should not be a crime.

“Reception and identification facilities for refugee and migrant children must ensure safe and adequate shelter as well as rapid access to health care, psychosocial support and asylum procedures. More resettlement pledges that prioritize children and speed-up family reunification procedures from EU Member States are urgently needed. 

“UNICEF welcomes recent progress towards a plan for increased solidarity and responsibility-sharing among European Governments. 

“Children should not be stranded at sea or drown off the shores of Europe. Political discussions must now move to region-wide action that will save lives and end further suffering.”

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