The UNHCR, the Fundamental Rights Agency and the bishops of Malta and Gozo in separate statements this afternoon expressed their regret over the latest migrants tragedy in the Mediterranean.

At least 17 people died, some 200 were rescued but another 200 are feared drowned after a boat capsized just outside Libyan waters.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said it has launched an information campaign in association with the Libyan coast guard, non-government organisations, United Nations partners and asylum-seekers to warn people of the risks involved in trips on unseaworthy boats across the Mediterranean.

The UNHCR said it was deeply saddened at the rising death toll as increasing numbers of asylum-seekers and refugees made the journey on unseaworthy boats, often at the hands of ruthless smugglers.

Yesterday's dead included 12 women, three children and two men. Two merchant ships from France and Vanuatu rescued 226 people who later received medical checks by Italian doctors transferred by the Italian navy. The French vessel Bourbon Arcadia rescued 158 people and the Kehoe Tide from Vanuatu rescued 68.

The tragedy follows several shipwrecks off the Libyan coast over the past fortnight, in which 121 people are believed to have died. The Libyan coast guard rescued 134 people.


The FRA director Morten Kjaerum said that "no one country can solve the issue alone. Europe needs to act together to find long-term comprehensive solutions that will address all aspects of migration from cause to effect”.

The EU, he said, needed a more comprehensive approach leading to a joint commitment by all Mediterranean coastal and other interested states to address unsafe migration by sea.

This would include:

* tackling the reasons why people flee;

* enhancing regional protection;

* alleviating the pressure on countries of first arrival;

* improving maritime safety;

* assisting migrants in distress;

* creating legal ways to access Europe for people who need protection;

* recognising the added-value of migration;

* providing full access to fair and efficient asylum procedures;

* boosting operational support for border operations carried out by Frontex, which must be fundamental rights-compliant; and

* showing EU solidarity.


Meanwhile, in a statement, Archbishop Paul Cremona, Gozo bishop Mario Grech and auxiliary bishop Charles Scicluna appealed to the civil authorities and non-governmental organisations, especially those pertaining to the church, to continue with their work in favour of human life and the safeguarding of fundamental human rights.

This bishops expressed concern at the recent deaths in the Mediterranean.