Sunday

19th Nov 2017

More than 300 dead in latest migrant tragedy

  • Hundreds are feared dead in the latest boating tragedy off the coast of Italy (Photo: Frontex)

Calls are being made for the EU to step up its sea operations after some 330 people are feared dead after trying to make their way from Libya to Italy.

The UN refugee agency (UNCHR) on Wednesday (11 February) said hundreds are thought to have perished over the weekend after embarking from Libya towards the Italian coast on four dinghies.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"Saving lives should be our top priority. Europe cannot afford to do too little too late,” said UNHCR Europe bureau director Vincent Cochetel in a statement.

Around 29 had perished earlier this week from hypothermia but the latest incident came to light after survivors said one of the dinghies carrying 100 people had disappeared.

Only two out of about 100 passengers survived on a second dinghy and seven out of about 100 people on a third one.

The death toll approaches the 366 migrants who drowned off the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013.

That disaster sparked an outcry with EU leaders at the time vowing to prevent another similar tragedy from happening.

Italy then launched its naval search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum, credited with saving over 100,000 people.

But Mare Nostrum was phased out last November and the much smaller surveillance Triton operation, led by the EU’s border agency, Frontex, took over.

Unlike Mare Nostrum, Triton is not mandated for search and rescue and is confined to operate within 30 nautical miles off the Italian shore.

“It’s a simple equation – as the number of people taking this perilous sea route goes up and the resources put into search and rescue go down, more people will die,” said Amnesty International’s John Dalhuisen.

Last year, 218,000 people, including migrants and refugees, crossed the Mediterranean by irregular routes.

The UNCHR says the trend is expected to continue in 2015 as smugglers along the north African coast continue to exploit those fleeing war, persecution, and poverty.

One survivor said they were forced at gunpoint to board the four-vessel flotilla of dinghies in bad weather after having been locked up in a warehouse in the outskirts of Libya’s capital Tripoli.

"We know what fate we are going towards and the probability of dying ... But it is a sacrifice we consciously make to have a future," another told the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM), reports Reuters.

Those rescued on Wednesday say they had spent days at open sea without food or water.

“What’s happening now is worse than a tragedy – it is a crime – one as bad as any I have seen in fifty years of service,” said IOM director general William Lacy Swing.

Don’t point fingers

The European Commission on Wednesday said it was unable to comment on the specifics of the latest toll due to a lack of details.

“We all know that more needs to be done,” said spokesperson Natasha Bertaud.

“Pointing fingers is not going to get us anyway, tackling this common challenge has to be a joint effort of the commission and the member states working together,” she added.

With a budget of €90 million a year, Bertaud said Frontex is not adequately funded to face the challenge.

“We need to pull more resources among the member states,” she said.

Migrant smugglers using new route to Europe

Smugglers are using a new route to get migrants into Europe by loading them onto cargo ships from Turkey to Italy, according to the EU's border agency.

Opinion

A legal way to seek refuge in Europe

It is time for a European quota system that distributes asylum seekers between member states, writes Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikstrom.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse