Wednesday, February 11, 2015

More Than 200 Migrants Feared Dead After Boats Sink in Mediterranean

By VICE News
February 11, 2015 | 1:16 pm
More than 200 migrants are missing in the Mediterranean sea after the motorboats they were traveling in sank, the UN refugee agency says.
Nine people were saved after four days at sea, but a further 203 were "swallowed up," Carlotta Sami, the UNHCR spokeswoman in Italy, said on Twitter.
She called the incident a "horrible and enormous tragedy."
The two boats departed from the Libyan coast on Saturday, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Lauren Jolles, UNHCR officer for Southern Europe, criticised Operation Triton — Europe's Mediterranean border patrol — for lacking a "core mandate" of saving human lives.
"We are shocked by the news of the death of another 203 migrants and refugees," she said in a statement.
She added: "The Operation Triton does not have as its core mandate of saving human lives and therefore can not be the answer of which is urgently needed."
Triton was brought into replace Operation Mare Nostrum, the Italian government's program of maritime patrols, which ended last year to warnings from refugee experts that the death toll could soar. The EU operation, run by the bloc's border agency Frontex, covers a much reduced search area and is mandated with border surveillance rather than search and rescue.
Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, also denounced Triton's inadequacy, saying the loss of life could have been avoided.
The news comes just days after 29 migrants died after their inflatable raft capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa. 22 of those died from hypothermia after being picked up by a rescue vessel.
More than 165,000 undocumented migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the first nine months of 2014, accroding to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, compared with 60,000 for the whole of 2013. Almost half of the 2014 migrants were Syrians and Eritreans.
At least 3,000 died or went missing at sea in 2014, according to UNCHR estimates, compared to over 600 in 2013.
Main image: Migrants are picked up by an Italian navy patrol in December. Image via the Italian navy.

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