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UNHCR IMO leaflet persons rescued at sea

UNHCR Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative (CMSI)
EU solidarity for rescue at sea and protection of refugees and migrants

High seas tragedies leave more than 300 dead on the Mediterranean in
past week

GENEVA, August 26 (UNHCR) – More than 300 people have died while trying
to make irregular sea crossings from North Africa to Europe in the past
week, bringing the death toll this year from sinking vesels on the
Mediterranean to almost 1,900, including some 1,600 since June.

"The past few days have been the deadliest this year on the
Mediterranean for people making irregular crossings to Europe, with at
least three vessels having overturned or sunk," UNHCR's senior
spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva.

She said the first and largest of these incidents occurred last Friday
when a boat, reportedly carrying at least 270 people, capsized near
Garibouli to the east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Nineteen people
survived, but the Libyan coastguard has recovered the bodies of 100
others, including five young children and seven women. The remaining 251
passengers are feared drowned.

Citing reports from survivors, Fleming said "the boat was packed full
and more people were pushed on board before they departed. According to
the accounts, the boat suddenly flipped, trapping the people on the
lower deck." The Libyan coastguard has asked for help in the search and
rescue operation and to recover bodies.

In a second incident on Saturday evening, the Italian Navy rescued 73
people and recovered 18 bodies from a damaged rubber dinghy 20 miles
from Libyan territorial waters. UNHCR's Fleming said 10 people were
still missing and feared drowned.

The passengers were mainly from Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Sudan.
The dinghy was already partially deflated when spotted by an Italian
search and rescue aircraft and life rafts were dropped to people
struggling in the water.

In a third incident, on Sunday evening, a fishing boat carrying about
400 people capsized north of the Libyan coast in bad weather. The
Italian Navy and coastguard, in a joint operation with a nearby merchant
ship, rescued 364 people. So far, 24 bodies have been recovered and more
are feared dead. The exact number of missing is not yet confirmed.

The main departure country for Europe is Libya, where the worsening
security situation has fostered the growth of people smuggling
operations, but also encouraged refugees and migrants to risk the sea
journey rather than remain in a conflict zone.

"UNHCR's Tripoli office receives daily calls from refugees,
asylum-seekers and other vulnerable people expressing fear for their
lives and making desperate requests for food, water, medicine and
relocation. Those who choose to leave for Italy are taking longer and
riskier journeys through new ports of departure such as Benghazi [in
eastern Libya]," Fleming said.

She noted that many of those risking their lives at sea to reach Europe
were refugees fleeing conflict, violence and persecution. "This dramatic
situation at Europe's sea borders demands urgent and concerted European
action, including strengthened search-and-rescue operations in the
Mediterranean, ensuring that rescue measures are safe and incur minimum
risks for those being rescued," she added.

"UNHCR commends the life-saving Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) operation the
Italian Navy and coastguard is conducting that has saved thousands of
lives. As more refugees and migrants risk their lives at sea to reach
Europe, mostly Eritreans, Syrians, and Somalis, urgent action is
needed," Fleming stressed.

The UN refugee agency believes that it is of vital importance that
survivors of these tragedies, who often have lost family and friends, be
given immediate access to psychological support once they are
disembarked. UNHCR has also called for procedures to be put in place to
allow for identification of the bodies recovered at sea, providing quick
and clear information so that families are not subjected to unnecessary
additional suffering.

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