Lampedusa tragedy puts EU search and rescue mission under spotlight

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A young boy surrounded by adults after being rescued in June last year from a boat on the Mediterranean Sea. © UNHCR/A.D’Amato

The deaths from hypothermia of 29 refugees who were travelling on a boat off the Italian coast on Monday have prompted warnings from UN and partner refugee agencies that there's worse to come.

Despite severe winter conditions, desperate families are still attempting the journey and according to UNHCR the number of people crossing is higher than this time last year.

The agency has urged the European Union to review its Triton sea rescue project after Italy shut down its own operation last year, as Daniel Johnson reports.

The European Union faced a call to beef up its maritime rescue operation after details emerged about the tragedy that claimed the lives of 29 people in the Mediterranean Sea on Monday.

Reports indicate that the majority of deaths from hypothermia happened on a small rescue vessel belonging to the Italian coastguard.

UN refugee agency UNHCR welcomed the rescue mission which took place 100 miles out to sea and saved 106 lives.

But the agency said it was unclear whether there was adequate medical provision for the victims on the Italian boat.

In Geneva, UNHCR's Adrian Edwards said the EU Triton search and rescue needed scaling up and that it was "no replacement" for the Italian Mare Nostrum project that wound up last year.

"Human lives should not be allowed to become the collateral damage from policies that really have other objectives."

UN partner agency the International Organization for Migration said that the migrants rescued on Monday were all from sub-Saharan countries.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1"00

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