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Step up action before more tragedies unfold in the Mediterranean

2015-04-21

Authorities need to put best interests of children first, says UNICEF

NEW YORK, 20 April, 2015 - “Reports of tragedies on the Mediterranean Sea - leaving hundreds of people, including children, dead or missing – are becoming all too frequent and the human cost all too high.

“Two deadly incidents in just two days on the Mediterranean Sea stress the need for swift, collective and courageous action. Thousands have made perilous journeys to Europe - from men and women, sometimes entire families in search of safety and opportunities in Europe to teenagers and young children - fleeing brutal conflicts back home such as in Syria.  At least 1,600 have died so far this year before even stepping foot on European soil.

“Children who find themselves on these journeys are exposed to abuse, exploitation and possibly death and, if they survive, are often placed in unsafe and unsuitable conditions and / or criminalized. This is in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We ask that all actions are guided by the best interests of every one of these children, every step of the way. No matter their refugee or migrant status, children are to be cared for in a safe place - and not in a detention facility - with access to education, health, social and legal services with full implementation of existing safeguards especially for the most vulnerable.

“With the start of the warmer weather in Europe when numbers of migrants are likely to rise, decisive action could avoid more senseless deaths. This means following the EU’s existing safeguards for unaccompanied minors, strengthening search-and-rescue capacities to save and protect lives, prosecuting human traffickers, and tackling the root causes of migration in countries of origin - conflict, poverty and discrimination - to avoid more tragic losses.”

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About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.