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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 10-Nov-15 12:54:49

Guest post: "112 children have drowned since September - how many more?"

The conditions forcing families to flee Syria are unthinkable, reports Kirsty McNeill from Lesvos - but even once they reach Europe, they are far from safe.

Kirsty McNeill

Campaigns Director, Save the Children

Posted on: Tue 10-Nov-15 12:54:49


Lead photo

"No one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land."

Who was the last person who told you 'I love you'? Maybe it was your partner when you woke up this morning, or your little one as you tucked them up last night.

For me it was a man I've never met. He had just made it safely to the Greek island of Lesvos by dinghy. He had survived an extremely dangerous crossing from Turkey and he was right to be relieved - this beautiful island is fast becoming a graveyard.

I have been working on the refugee crisis for months now, hearing about how mothers are putting their children out to sea in 'lilos with sides' or even trying to make sea crossings while they're in labour. I already knew that 112 more children have drowned trying to get to Greece since the tragic photo of the little boy washed ashore on a Turkish beach united the world in grief. I knew all these things - and yet I was still shocked to see some Disney princess armbands on the beach, a heartbreaking reminder of what desperate mums and dads will do to try to keep their little ones safe.

The armbands were among other standard children's clutter - little shoes, tiny jumpers, nappies. Similar things probably litter your living room floor, but the collection feels very different strewn across the rocks where people disembark hungry, wet and scared.

You might be asking yourself what would make you take your children out on a rough sea on a dinghy. The answer probably seems simple: no power on earth would compel you to put your babies in that sort of danger.

You might be asking yourself what would make you take your children out on a rough sea on a dinghy. The answer probably seems simple: no power on earth would compel you to put your babies in that sort of danger.

But what if your home was destroyed by bombing and thousands of children in your country had already been killed? This short video gives a bit of a sense of why people risk dying on the move instead of waiting for death to come to them: "no one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land".

There's another nightmarish choice for those families who for whatever reason can't travel - should they send a son or daughter on to Europe all alone? So far this year thousands of children have arrived in the EU without a parent to protect them. Some are orphans, some have become separated from family along the way, but many have been sent alone intentionally by parents desperate to get them to safety as soon as possible. The tragedy is that once they get here they are far from safe.

One of Europe's top police officers has recently warned that refugee children in Europe alone are very vulnerable to being enslaved, trafficked or forced in to prostitution. Even if they escape that fate, many of these children are sleeping rough in train stations: they are cold, alone and afraid. That's why Save the Children is campaigning hard to persuade the Prime Minister to offer just 3000 of these lone refugee children a loving home here in Britain. If you agree with us please sign our petition here.

We know that persuading David Cameron is going to be tough. But we also know that people power has changed his mind on this question twice before. The first time was when activism persuaded Britain to restart the rescue, with the Royal Navy's HMS Bulwark saving nearly 5000 lives as a result. The second time was when we helped move the government's position from refusing to resettle any extra Syrian refugees to deciding to help twenty thousand. During this crisis, campaigning has already secured two victories, but now we need a hat trick, and for that we need you and your friends and family to take action.

I'm safely back from Greece now and thinking of my colleagues who are still there getting cooked meals - sometimes as many as 8000 a day - to people in the camps. We simply wouldn't be able to do that without the incredible generosity of people here in the UK digging deep to donate to our child refugee appeal.

The man I met on the beach last week, like so many who have made this terrifying journey before, couldn't believe that people are there to help people like him. The reality is, without you, we couldn't be. So here's a message for Mumsnetters, all the way from Greece: it isn't me he loves, it's you.

By Kirsty McNeill

Twitter: @kirstyjmcneill

BrandNewAndImproved Tue 10-Nov-15 14:00:37

Signed the campaign.

spankhurst Tue 10-Nov-15 15:00:42


GeekLove Tue 10-Nov-15 15:14:56

Signed and will see MP if possible.

MumOnTheRunAgain Tue 10-Nov-15 15:20:50

How awful

Where are these 3,000 children going to go tho?

CherryPicking Tue 10-Nov-15 16:08:10

Hopefully into loving foster homes.

Robertaquimby Tue 10-Nov-15 18:19:56


MumOnTheRunAgain Tue 10-Nov-15 19:30:50

cherry I doubt that very much, look at how many unadapted children we already have! Adoption needs to be made easier

BrandNewAndImproved Tue 10-Nov-15 20:20:53

They wouldn't be adopted. They would be fostered until they're 18 and then sent back.

Bluenailsblueshoes Tue 10-Nov-15 21:13:43

I'm a foster carer and am looking after a refugee. He is a lovely, kind young boy who was sent away by his family.
I'm so happy he made it through.
brandnew I don't think they'll be sent back at 18, I hope not. My boy wants a peaceful life, all children deserve that.

BrandNewAndImproved Tue 10-Nov-15 21:24:47

Unfortunately that is what happens blue sad maybe continuing higher education and showing they can support themselves when it goes to court they could be granted indef leave.

It's really sad especially when you've gone to school and grown up with refugees and then they have to go back to their country. Quite a few of my school friends have now gone back to Iraq never to be heard from again sad

Bluenailsblueshoes Tue 10-Nov-15 22:13:07

Oh dear you've got me worried now. Hopefully he'll stay on in higher education. Would it make a difference if I said I would support him? He's part of my family now and I'd be heartbroken if he had to go back. He has said he doesn't want to.

VocationalGoat Wed 11-Nov-15 06:10:02

Bluenails your compassion and willingness to give this boy another chance at living life, not enduring it, is what keeps the world turning.

Rollermum Wed 11-Nov-15 06:22:56

This is an important ongoing issue, thanks for posting. The media focus on this didn't last long and people could be forgiven for thinking that the death of Aylan Kurdi and his family was news because it was unusual but as the stat in the title highlights, tragically it is not.

MrsNuthouse Wed 11-Nov-15 12:51:46


Bluenailsblueshoes, I have heard about that as well, kids being sent back once they turn 18 but surely they can't send them back to a war zone??? I hope not anyway, their refugee status should secure them imo!

greengoose Wed 11-Nov-15 16:37:13


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