Breaking Update: Major tragedy in the Mediterranean confirmed

February 11, 2015

Some 300 feared dead in fresh Mediterranean tragedy

The UN refugee agency is shocked at new information emerging on the actual scale of the tragedy in the Mediterranean after Monday’s rescue attempts by the Italian Coast Guard. Reports gathered by UNHCR from the Italian Coast Guard and the survivors in Lampedusa now suggest some 300 people are confirmed missing.

They were among migrants and refugees mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa who had left the coast of Libya in four dinghies.

“This is a tragedy on an enormous scale and a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea. Saving lives should be our top priority. Europe cannot afford to do too little too late,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe Bureau Director.

Survivors confirmed to UNHCR that they had left on Saturday from Libya on rubber dinghies and had been at sea without food and water. Aside from those on the first boat that UNHCR reported on, only two out of about 100 passengers survived on a second dinghy and seven out of about 100 people on a third one. A search is under way for the fourth dinghy. The youngest of the missing was a 12-year-old boy. “UNHCR reiterates its concern about the lack of a strong search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean. Europe’s Triton operation, which is run by the European border protection agency Frontex, is not focused on search and rescue and is not providing the necessary tools to cope with the scale of the crises. Saving lives must be a priority for the European Union,” the statement said.

At least 218,000 people, including migrants and refugees, crossed the Mediterranean by irregular routes last year and this trend is expected to continue in 2015. About 3,500 boat people lost their lives trying to cross to Europe in 2014.

At least 218,000 people, including both migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014 and this trend is expected to continue in 2015.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Rome, Carlotta Sami on mobile +39 335 679 4746
In Lampedusa, Federico Fossi on mobile +393490843461
In Rome, Barbara Molinario on mobile +393385462932
In Geneva: Babar Baloch, +41 79 557 9106