Some days at MOAS [ Migrant Offshore Aid Station] are harder than others for our office team, our crew and all our supporters. Yesterday was one such day. Following the release of the heartbreaking footage of Omran Daqneesh sitting shocked and dazed in an ambulance in Syria, with the world crying out for justice and compassion, the MOAS team and its partners at sea were faced with yet another devastating demonstration of the effects of this heartbreaking conflict. Having survived the horrors of Syria and fled with their children on an exhausting journey in search of safety and security, 8 Syrian families were crammed together on a small wooden boat that left the coast of Libya in the early hours of Thursday morning. When their boat capsized and all were thrown overboard, they could only desperately try to hold the children above water, grasp on to one another and wait for help as they drifted apart. Some of the 27 who had originally been on board were rescued by search and rescue NGO Proactiva Open Arms, still others by a nearby fisherman, and eventually 21 survivors were transferred onto the MOAS vessel Responder to begin their journey North. Meanwhile the MOAS ship Phoenix was headed to an incident in another area when it began to come across the bodies of casualties floating in the water. Throughout the morning the Phoenix crew recovered the bodies of two women, a man and an 8-month old baby girl, while the body of a five year old girl was transferred over to them by yet another fisherman who came across her in the water. The search for the last remaining passenger from that boat of 27, a 5-year-old boy, was futile; he has still not been found despite exhaustive searches that went on all day. Following the public outcry after Aylan Kurdi, when voices shouted “never again”, we are still seeing hundreds of children drown each year, heroic survivors of conflict, poverty, violence and oppression, as their families desperately reach toward a safe space to raise them. “It is very sad and frustrating to witness the tragic loss of life at sea, especially that of such a young child. It is time for the international community to come to terms with this reality and to implement safe and legal solutions for the most vulnerable among us to avail themselves of the rights and protections they are entitled to”, said Regina Catrambone, MOAS co-founder. Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011, it is estimated that over 50,000 children have already lost their lives. According to UNHCR, between January and June 2016, children constituted an average of 27% of all migrant arrivals in Europe. Tonight, almost a year on from Aylan, as the footage of Omran permeates the internet, the 21 survivors and 5 latest casualties of the Mediterranean crossing head toward Sicily to disembark.
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