More than two dozen dead after another boat capsizes near Italy
At least 27 people have been killed after a boat carrying migrants capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa on Friday, just a week after 300 people died when another migrant ship capsized in the same waters.
It is believed that the boat encountered difficulties just before sunset.
Reports suggest the boat capsized after those on the vessel all moved to one side to attract the attention of a passing ship.
Malta has been co-ordinating the emergency response as, although near the Sicilian island, the boat was in international waters where Malta has responsibility for search and rescue operations.
A Maltese military plane was quickly on the scene and dropped a life-raft to begin the rescue action.
The Italian authorities are assisting the Maltese with their rescue operations; Italian naval vessels who were already in the area searching for passengers from the previous capsized ships were scrambled shortly after the most recent incident was discovered.
It is believed that about 250 people were on the most recent vessel.
The Maltese prime minister’s office reported that 147 people were being taken to Malta on board a Maltese patrol boat whilst another 56 had been saved by Italian authorities.
The rescue efforts of the Maltese and Italian authorities have been praised by the EU commissioner for home affairs, Cecilia Malmström, who said the swift response had helped reduce the death toll.
She added: “These new horrible events are happening while we still have the shocking images of the tragedy in Lampedusa in our minds.”
Lampedusa has become a key point for migrant vessels from North Africa travelling to Europe.
Across the Mediterranean almost another 650 migrants have been rescued since last Thursday from numerous migrant ships.
These disasters have led to calls for urgent action to be taken to open humanitarian corridors and reduce the number of migrant boats.
Francesco Rocca, head of the Italian Red Cross, said these latest deaths highlight the need for “concrete action” to open humanitarian corridors.
Speaking to journalists in Valetta, the Maltese prime minister, John Muscat, called for more help from the European Union to increase search and rescue patrols and prevent such tragedies in the future.
“This is not just another wake-up call for Europe. This is the time for action,” he said.
“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a cemetery” he added.