Refugee agency challenges EU to act on migrant deaths

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Italian coastguards help migrants found at sea near Lampedusa.UNHCR/A.Di Loreto

The UN refugee agency set its sights on the European Union as it unveiled proposals Thursday to save increasing numbers of migrants forced to cross the Mediterranean to escape conflict.

In addition to a more robust search and rescue naval operation, UNHCR wants to see more financial support for Italy and Greece, which process the bulk of migrants.

UNHCR also wants more countries to consider taking in migrants, particularly Syrians, as the conflict enters its fifth year with almost four million refugees.

Daniel Johnson has more:

The UN request for talks with the EU comes amid growing concern at the increasing number of migrants dying at sea.

So far this year UN refugee agency UNHCR says an estimated 470 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea, compared to 15 in the same period last year.

If no action is taken more people will die, the refugee agency insists.

Here's UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler:

"We think it's time to act and find solutions to this situation, it's unacceptable and we cannot continue with the status quo."

The proposals call for a new naval rescue programme "similar" to the Italian Mare Nostrum project that ended late last year.

They also call for states to take responsibility for processing asylum seekers' claims, as they are bound to do as members of the EU.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 0’44″


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