‘30,000 could die’ crossing the Med

Published: Wednesday 22nd April 2015 by The News Editor

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Up to 30,000 migrants, including 2,500 children, could be killed attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year unless the crisis is tackled, according to analysts.

The dire warning comes as David Cameron as prepares to break off from election campaigning to attend a summit in Brussels tomorrow to agree plans to combat people smugglers.

Around 800 people are believed to have drowned in the shipwreck off the coast of Libya on Saturday, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Just 28 people are known to have survived the tragedy, described by UNHCR as “the deadliest incident in the Mediterranean we have ever recorded”.

The death toll from capsizing disasters stands at 1,727 so far in 2015 – 30 times higher than the 56 fatalities by April 21 last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

At its the current rate the total for this year could reach 30,000.

The Prime Minister and other European leaders are under mounting pressure to come up with a plan to stem the rising number of migrants killed trying to cross the sea for a better life in Europe.

Mr Cameron has faced criticism for cutting funding to search and rescue operations in the area.

The Times said British military chiefs were preparing to offer one of the country’s biggest warships to help tackle the refugee crisis.

HMS Bulwark, a 176-metre launchpad for helicopters and small vessels that protected London during the 2012 Olympics, is understood to be among the options being considered by ministers.

An MoD spokeswoman said it was “looking at options but no decisions have been taken”.

The charity Save the Children has called on EU leaders to restart search and rescue operations off the coast of Italy within 48 hours, on the scale of the previous, and far larger, Italian-led Mare Nostrum operation.

Chief executive Justin Forsyth said: “EU leaders hold the lives of thousands of desperate people in their hands when they meet tomorrow.

“With every day that they prevaricate and delay restarting search and rescue operations, the risk grows that more people will die as they try to reach Europe.

“We cannot allow 2015 to be the deadliest year in the Mediterranean yet. We must get agreement at Thursday’s meeting to scale search and rescue back up to 2014 levels.

“Even one boat that sinks is one too many, but the escalating number of people dying off Italy’s shores brings home the urgent need to act.”

Maurice Wren, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the response to events in the Mediterranean was “inadequate” and Europe had to “raise its game”.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was a mistake to abandon the search and rescue mission.

He told Channel 4 News: “I think with hindsight that was not the right decision, but even if you return to that old search and rescue system, that still doesn’t provide you with a solution, a European solution, to a very real problem – which is thousands of people in wretched circumstances travelling huge distances, exiting ports in North Africa in the hands of illegal human smugglers and traffickers and perishing on the high seas in the Mediterranean.”

Two alleged people smugglers, including one believed to have been the captain of the ship, have been detained by Italian authorities, according to reports.

It has been claimed the boat capsized after accidentally colliding with another ship which came to its aid.

Published: Wednesday 22nd April 2015 by The News Editor

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