EU urged to expand rescue operations as death toll in Mediterranean migrant boat disaster reaches 800

Published 30.06.2015 20:06

Italy has urged the EU to do something about the migrant situation as 800 migrants are believed to have died when trying to cross to Europe from Libya. The Italian navy on Tuesday began to recover the first bodies from the boat that sank in Mediterranean waters in April 2015.

Recovery operations started on Monday, using remote-controlled vehicles and a container called a "Big Bag" in a submersible basket to haul the bodies up from the fishing boat, which is lying at a depth of about 370 meters (1,200 feet).

The disaster, believed to be the worst in decades of perilous sea-borne migration from North Africa, has shocked the European Union into expanding rescue operations.

The navy said it had pulled out eight bodies so far from the shipwreck, which happened about 135 km (85 miles) north of Libya. They were placed in a refrigerated container on board the ship Gorgona under the supervision of the Italian Red Cross.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said the wreck should be raised so "the whole world can see what happened" to the rickety boat, one of many that have carried more than 60,000 migrants to Italy so far this year.

Italy has pushed for the EU to help it manage the flow of migrants, many of whom continue to undertake the risky passage to escape war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Around 900 migrants were rescued in two operations more than 30 miles from the coast of Libya on Tuesday and transferred to the Italian ship Dattilo, a coastguard spokesman said.

The EU agreed at a summit last week to relocate 40,000 migrants over two years from Italy and Greece. It is now due to draw up criteria to decide how many each member country should take, replacing unpopular proposals for mandatory quotas.

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