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Boat Capsizes Off Libyan Coast, 700 Migrants Feared Dead

  • Published in World

Around 700 migrants are feared to be dead after a migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Strait of Sicily, between Italy and Libya, an Italian coast guard official has said on Sunday.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Federico Fossi said in a statement to reporters that it was difficult to determine the number of people rescued so far.

"Many people have been rescued so far. The Operational Cooperation Agency for the Management of External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex), gives the number 49, while some newspapers say 28. The numbers are not yet clear," Fossi said.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in a statement that the number of dead would increase. "A tragedy unfolds every day in the Mediterranean," said Renzi.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the Times of Malta that Maltese boats were helping the Italian search-and-rescue teams. "They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water," said Muscat.

“What we are witnessing in the Mediterranean is a man-made tragedy of appalling proportions. These latest deaths at sea come as a shock, but not a surprise,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia in a statement.

"It is time for European governments to face their responsibilities and urgently set up a multi-country concerted humanitarian operation to save lives at sea,” the statement added.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs said in a statement that  what had happened was "unacceptable" and that the issue had to be dealt with by the EU "without delay." 

"I have decided to put the issue of migration as a formal point on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council I convened tomorrow in Luxembourg, where I'll present a set of proposals for Libya, one of the main routes of illegal trafficking of migrants," Mogherini said.

“The scale of what is happening in the Mediterranean isn’t an accident, it’s a direct result of our policy," said Justin Forsyth, executive director of the Save The Children charity."Europe cannot look the other way while thousands die off our shores.” 

UNHCR spokesman in Italy Carlotta Sami said this situation did not concern only Italy, but Turkey and Greece as well. "it will be the biggest disaster in the region in case the death toll is confirmed."

“The International community must act decisively," said Pope Francis reacting to the tragedy

At least 3,400 migrants are reported to have died trying to make cross the Mediterranean in 2014.

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