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Refugee rescuers save over 20 children in the central Mediterranean

EU states call for Syria to be reclassified as a safe country

ACTIVISTS saved the lives of more than 20 children from an overcrowded rubber boat in distress in the central Mediterranean Sea on Thursday night.

The Humanity 1 rescue ship found the rubber boat adrift in international waters after the activist-run distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone alerted them to the distress case in the morning.

The ship’s crew had already rescued 28 people from a small wooden boat in the same area earlier that day.

“In the middle of the night, our crew rescued a further 42 people, half of them minors, from an overcrowded rubber boat in distress,” said SOS Humanity, the Germany-based organisation that operates the ship, this morning.

“Our crew is now taking care of 70 people on board. Among them is a four-month-old baby as well as people who are suffering from respiratory infections and have reported torture.”

Though the rescue occurred close to Libya, the Italian authorities have ordered the crew to take the rescued to Carrara — more than 230 miles north of Rome and about 715 miles away from where the rescue took place.

SOS Humanity said: “Last year Italy’s practice of assigning unnecessarily distant ports forced NGO rescue ships to travel over 150,000km – 3.5 times around the world.”

Meanwhile, the governments of Austria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta and Poland called on the European Union today to reclassify Syria as a safe country — thereby making deportations to the war-torn country easier.

The European human rights network Platform for Undocumented Migrants described the call by the 15 European states today as “a shameful hymn to Fortress Europe.”

“Deals to externalise migration are extremely inhumane, disregard the realities and reasons for international mobility, and violate international laws and values on which Europe is supposedly based.”

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