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More than 240 Refugees and Migrants Dead in ‘Horrific 24 Hours’ in the Mediterranean

Two very young children, whose mother died while on board a boat ferrying refuges and migrants from North Africa to Europe, were rescued by Save the Children today as part of an operation in which more than 100 people were saved by our search and rescue vessel, the Vos Hestia.   

Several children, including one as young as two years-old, were among those on board the boat ferrying migrants and refugees.

The two children who lost their mother have no other relatives with them and are now under the care of Save the Children's on board child protection teams, who work closely with the Italian authorities. Prayers were said on board for their mother.

Today’s rescue came less than 24 hours after more than 240 migrants and refugees are believed to have drowned when two rubber dinghies capsized off the North African coast, survivors told Save the Children. Only 29 people out of the at least 270 people believed to have been on board the two dinghies were pulled alive from the water.

Save the Children was on hand to assist the rescue operations late on Wednesday and spotted two women who had been out at sea for hours.

“There are no words to describe the horrific events we have witnessed over the past 24 hours,” said Roger Alonso, Save the Children’s team leader on the Vos Hestia.

“We’ve seen a mother in utter shock, unable to speak after losing her baby. Two young children have witnessed their mother die in unspeakable circumstances. These mothers left Africa with their children with hopes of a better future – it cost them their lives. Our team is now doing everything they can to provide support to these children, including psychological care.”

“This needless loss of life highlights the perverse impact of current EU policy, which is focused on protecting borders rather than providing to refugees and migrants, especially those most vulnerable, legal and safe ways to reach sanctuary in our countries,” Alonso added.  

Save the Children has repeatedly called for the EU to provide safe and legal routes into Europe, such as resettlement, humanitarian visas and other forms of humanitarian admissions, which should help to ensure minimum standards of protection, especially for children.

So far, 2016 has been the deadliest year on record for those crossing the Mediterranean, and if the number of causalities from the latest shipwreck is confirmed, more than 4,100 people will have died trying to make it to Europe from North Africa.

The journey is so dangerous that the likelihood of dying while trying to make the crossing is now 1 for every 45 arrivals. 

Save the Children has rescued more than 1,300 people, including more than 200 children, and is continuing to conduct its life saving-operations to help prevent more people losing their lives at sea.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Save the Children.