12 February 2015

Some 300 people are now confirmed missing and believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean according to reports gathered by UNHCR following the rescue of some 100 people by the Italian Coast Guard on Monday.

Survivors said that four dinghies left from a beach near Tripoli on Saturday. Twenty-nine migrants died, most of them of hypothermia, after they were rescued from an inflatable dinghy carrying 106 people. Only two people were recovered from a dinghy which, according to survivors, had departed with 107 passengers and only seven people survived on another which had carried 109 people. A fourth boat with approximately 100 people is missing.

UNHCR and NGOs have repeatedly warned that ending Italy’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum, launched following the Lampedusa tragedy of 2013, without replacing it by a well-resourced European search and rescue initiative would mean more deaths at sea.

“There can be no doubt left after this week’s events that Europe’s Operation Triton is a woefully inadequate replacement for Italy’s Mare Nostrum,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “The focus has to be about saving lives. We need a robust search and rescue operation in the Central Mediterranean, not only a border patrol.”

“If a well-resourced European search and rescue initiative is not put in place, more people will die in their attempt to reach our shores. It’s a question of life or death and the EU needs to engage now to save lives”, said ECRE’s Secretary General Michael Diedring.

The Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) has urged the EU to modify the regulation of the EU Border Agency Frontex to include search and rescue at sea in its mandate or to establish a Search and Rescue Agency.

According to IOM, more than half of the 76 survivors rescued at sea on Monday are from the Ivory Coast (39), followed by Mali (18), Senegal (7), Guinea (7), Gambia (2) and Niger (2). Three of them are unaccompanied children. It is reported that most people who died were also Ivorians. 3,528 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean during January, according to Italy’s Ministry of the Interior. The main country of origin was Syria, with 764 people, followed by Gambia (451), Mali (436), Senegal (428), Somalia (405) and Eritrea (171).


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