Twenty feared dead in latest Mediterranean tragedy
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Reports emerging from the sea rescue effort between Italy and Libya suggest around 20 men, women and children are missing and feared dead after rescuers were able to pluck some 500 survivors from the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend.
Information gathered by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Italy indicates that the survivors were rescued from four rubber boats on Sunday by the SeaEye NGO and a merchant vessel called Ohio in the Central Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR is gathering more information from those rescued and about the circumstances of the rescue efforts.
Among the 20 feared dead it is reported that some were crushed by other people in the boat, while others drowned at sea. The victims include a child, women and some men - mostly from Nigeria, Ivory Coast and reportedly from Bangladesh. Seven bodies were recovered and taken with the survivors to Trapani.
With this latest incident, it is estimated more than 1,350 people are now missing or dead in the Mediterranean Sea. Over the past few weeks alone, over 95 people have lost their lives. UNHCR reiterates its call for credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection, including accessible and safe ways to reach Europe such as family reunification, resettlement and private sponsorship.
Saving lives must be the top priority. With continued horrifying reports of smuggler abuse, action is needed before people are caught and exposed to horrendous abuses at the hands of smugglers and before they board unsafe boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This also means redoubling efforts to solve conflicts, especially in Africa; and making better use of development resources.
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