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migrant crisis

"To send them back is another way of killing them"

At least twenty people, including a child, are said to have died in one of the latest incidents.

Updated at 10pm

Sky News / YouTube

TWO MORE MIGRANT boards issued distress calls in the Mediterranean today with more than 20 people reported drowned.

The International Organisation for Migration said it received a distress call from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean carrying more than 300 people, with at least 20 people reported dead.

Distress calls

As the search for victims from yesterday’s shipwreck continued, the International Organisation for Migration said it had received a distress call from another boat — but cautioned against concluding this was another disaster in the making.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said separately that Italy’s coast guard had asked merchant shipping to help two boats off the Libyan coast with up to 450 migrants on board after they sought help.

Police in Greece meanwhile reported three people killed, including a child, after a boat coming from Turkey sank off the island of Rhodes.

Dramatic YouTube footage showed people trying to reach survivors huddled on a piece of wreckage as they were being swept towards rocks. Ninety-three people were rescued alive, police said.

EU meetings

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini unveiled plans today to tackle the growing migrant crisis after telling member states they had “no more excuses” not to act.

EU foreign and interior ministers met in Luxembourg on the issue.

More than 700 migrants are feared dead in yesterday’s disaster, with some survivors suggesting nearly 1,000 people could have been on board.

Europe’s southern shores have been swamped over the past two weeks with migrants fleeing war and hardship, mostly via conflict-wracked Libya.

Action plan

migrants RT RT

Unveiling a 10-point action plan, Mogherini said the 28-member bloc needed “to show that same collective European sense of urgency we have consistently shown in reacting in times of crisis.”

The EU had to live up to its humanitarian values and commitments towards migrants, she said, adding:

To send them back is another way of killing them.

First on the list, ministers agreed the current EU border surveillance mission Triton should be increased to extend its range and capabilities on the bloc’s southern flank.

The EU will also try to capture or destroy people smuggler boats and increase cooperation across the board, the European Commission said.

The bloc will offer too a “voluntary pilot project on resettlement, providing a number of places to persons in need of protection”.

Up to now, countries relatively untouched by the problem had objected to this form of burden sharing, however small.

Diplomats said there could be 5,000 places available but the Commission gave no figure.

Emergency EU summit

Poland Europe Migrants Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Frontex, the European Union'’s border control agency AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

EU president Donald Tusk announced an emergency leaders summit for Thursday to discuss the plan, saying:

We cannot continue like this, we can’t accept that hundreds of people die.

Italy’s Renzi, whose country bears the brunt of the problem, said Rome was studying the possibility of mounting “targeted interventions” against Libya-based people smugglers.

“Attacks on death rackets, attacks against slave traders (traffickers) are in our thinking,” Renzi told a press conference with his Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat.

The charity Save the Children criticised the EU for not agreeing “immediate action” at Monday’s meeting.

“What we needed from EU foreign ministers today was life-saving action, but they dithered. The emergency summit on Thursday is now a matter of life and death,” said the group’s head Valerio Neri in a statement.

Search continues

Greece Migrants AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Italian and Maltese navy boats meanwhile continued to search for the victims of yesterday’s disaster, which brings to an estimated 1,600 the number of migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year.

Only 28 survivors have been found so far, along with 24 bodies, which were taken to Malta.

One survivor told Italian authorities there were as many as 950 people on board and that some had been locked below deck by the smugglers.

The tragedy caused an outcry across Europe, where newspapers declared it the “EU’s darkest day” and called for urgent action.

UNHCR head Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the Mediterranean was turning into a “vast cemetery” and accused the EU of “turning its back on some of the most vulnerable migrants in the world.”

In Washington, the US State Department said it was cooperating with the EU on the issue and providing assistance closer to the migrants’ “point of origin”.

Call for help

Greece Migrants Drown AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

IOM’s Rome office said earlier today it had received a call for help from one of three boats floating near each other in international waters.

“The caller said that there are over 300 people on his boat and it is already sinking (and) he has already reported fatalities, 20 at least,” IOM spokesman in Rome Federico Soda wrote in an email.

His colleague Flavio Di Giacomo however warned that so far IOM only had the word of the caller to go by.

“For now, this is simply a call for help… It’s too soon to talk about a shipwreck,” he told RaiNews24.

He said migrants often make distress calls even when they are not in a desperate situation to ensure they get picked up.

Off the Greek island of Rhodes, at least three people, including a child, died when a boat carrying 90 migrants sank.

The boat ran aground on rocks off the Aegean island on a crossing from Turkey. Video footage, shown above, shows survivors, including children, being pulled from the sea as water crashed onto the rocks. Authorities said they rescued 93 migrants, 30 of whom were hospitalised.


Greece Migrants Drown Fishermen look on the wreckage of a boat which was carrying dozens of immigrants in the eastern Aegean island of Rhodes, Greec AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Italian and Maltese navy boats today were still scouring waters off Libya for the victims of yesterday’s shipwreck – feared to have cost the lives of hundreds of people.

But the outlook appeared grim, with only 28 survivors rescued so far, along with 24 bodies picked up by the Malta coast guard.

One survivor told Italian authorities that there were as many as 950 people on board and that some of them had been locked below deck by the smugglers.

Yesterday’s tragedy came after a week in which two other migrant shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead.

© – AFP 2015 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: ‘We’re looking at the worst massacre ever seen in the Mediterranean’

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