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Further distressed vessels, migrant deaths reported in Med

The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) Rome office has received distress calls from a “sinking” vessel estimated to be carrying 300 migrants, with 20 reported fatalities.

“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 Med Regional Coordination Office director Federico Soda told AFP.

An IOM spokesman told Seatrade: “At the moment we have not yet confirmed the number of passengers. Contrary to a number of reports, only one vessel has contacted IOM.

“Normally they wouldn’t call us – it is normally the coastguard. Somebody must have had a number – this is very unusual.”

Other reports indicate a further three people have died, including a child, after another vessel  crossing from Turkey grounded off the Greek Island of Rhodes this morning. The vessel was said to be carrying 200 migrants, 93 of whom have been rescued and 30 taken to hospital, with a diver and a helicopter on scene.

Soda told AFP IOM had contacted coastguard agencies but “they do not have the assets to conduct these rescues right now. The weekend incident has tied up a lot of resources. The coastguard will probably try to redirect commercial ships to the area.”

ICS policy director Simon Bennett told Seatrade: “ICS believes the tragedy is potentially game changing and may at last spur all EU Member States to take the urgent and immediate collective action needed to prevent further massive loss of life at sea. In the short term, EU Member States need to agree funding for an EU ‘Mare Nostrum’ operation. ICS fully supports the call from the Italian prime minister for an immediate EU summit on the crisis, and we hope that EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg today will make progress on developing solutions.”

Earlier, IMO secretary general Koji Sekimizu called for “Safer, managed routes” for migrants, indicating that “the maritime search and rescue system… was not designed to handle the huge flows of migrants that are currently being seen in the Mediterranean.

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