27 June 2014

“There were 27 people from my town who I knew on the boat that sank off the Libyan coast on 11th October 2013. One of them was my neighbour. They are all dead. Despite this, I wasn’t afraid to get on a boat and face the same fate. Death by death, we’ve tried new routes, because nobody wants Syrians anymore. Neither in Lebanon, nor Egypt nor Libya,” says Abu Rabia, a young refugee who survived the crossing.

Save the Children’s latest report, “The boat is safe and other lies: why Syrian families are risking everything to reach Europe“, presents the distressing testimonies of families who survived the journey to Italy.

According to the report, of the 41,200 migrants the Italian Navy rescued between January and May 2014, 6,700 were children. 3,800 of the children rescued were Eritrean and Syrian. According to Save the Children, Eritrean children predominantly travel on their own and are usually in their teens while the average age of Syrian children is five and most of them travelled with their parents.

Save the Children has called on EU leaders to strengthen the search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean and to ensure that Italy and Northern Mediterranean countries are not left to manage this burden alone. Furthermore, States should follow the example of Germany and increase the number of Syrian refugees being resettled in Europe through legal channels and ensure other legal avenues to access international protection in the EU. States must also end the detention of children on immigration grounds. 

“The majority of families we meet fled the war in Syria one or two years ago, having left behind loved ones, survived extraordinary levels of violence, escaped recruitment, and seen their homes, towns and villages destroyed”, said Carlotta Bellini, Head of Child Protection for Save the Children Italy. “They have lost everything, but instead of finding safety, they continued to face severe hardships, exploitation, discrimination, and threats in other countries, before they finally attempted the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.” 

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 27 June 2014.
You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.