European Union member states must urgently step up efforts to protect refugees and migrants trying to reach their countries by sea after it was revealed this morning that 16 bodies were found on board a rubber dinghy rescued off the coast of Libya yesterday, said Amnesty International.
“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,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
According to the Italian Navy, the 16 perished due to hypothermia and dehydration. A further 76 refugees and migrants were rescued, of whom two were reportedly in critical conditions. One later died.
The boat was found 150 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa and 40 miles north of Tripoli. Yesterday, a total of 278 people were rescued by the Italian Navy in the Sicily Channel. After the announcement of the end of Operation Mare Nostrum on 31 October, Italy has scaled back its search and rescue operations.
The European Union’s alternative, an operation called Triton, is merely a border control operation, vastly reduced in scale and area covered in comparison to Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation.
“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,” said John Dalhuisen.