More deaths in the Mediterranean Sea show urgent need for EU-wide search and rescue operation

European Union member states must urgently step up efforts to protect refugees and migrants trying to reach their countries by sea, said Amnesty International today after 16 bodies were found on board a rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya yesterday.

According to the Italian Navy, the 16 perished due to hypothermia and dehydration. A further 76 refugees and migrants were rescued, two of whom were reportedly in a critical condition. One later died.

The boat was found 150 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa and 40 miles north of Tripoli. A total of 278 people were rescued by the Italian Navy in the Sicily Channel yesterday.

Italy announced the end of its search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, on 31 October, and its search and rescue efforts are now much reduced. The EU’s alternative, Triton, is merely a border control operation, vastly reduced in scale and area covered in comparison.

John Dalhuisen, director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said:

“People are still taking these dangerous sea routes to get to Europe. If the EU is serious about preventing the Mediterranean from becoming a cemetery, it must be prepared to deploy search and rescue operations all along the routes that desperate refugees and migrants are taking.”

“These latest deaths show yet again how vital it is that the EU maintains adequate search and rescue capacity along the routes taken by those fleeing conflict and persecution. The down-sizing of Italy’s search and rescue operation without an effective EU-wide replacement is putting the lives of hundreds of thousands at risk"

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