Mediterranean smugglers cram burn victims onto boat

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Italian rescue workers rush an injured person, hands swathed in bloodied bandages, off a rescue vessel in Lampedusa.© UNHCR/F. Malavolta

Seventy people, many of them with severe burns, have been rescued in the Mediterranean Sea after apparently being forced onto a deflated dinghy by smugglers.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said one of the migrants, who are mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, had died from burn injuries.

So far in 2015, over 35,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean.

Daniel Dickinson reports.

The migrants were rescued early on Friday morning by an Italian naval vessel.

They had been drifting at sea for two days.

Survivors told UNHCR staff that they were victims of a cooking gas explosion at a holding centre run by smugglers in Libya.

They had been left without medical help and eventually forced onto the dinghy with their wounds untreated.

Here's UNHCR's Adrian Edwards.

"This latest horrific incident involving human smugglers shows the urgent need to create safe legal alternatives so that refugees don't need to put their lives at risk in this way."

UNHCR has been pushing the European Union to deal with the challenges posed by the thousands of people who risk their lives trying to reach Europe each year.

The agency has proposed establishing a European search and rescue operation, and increasing legal alternatives to dangerous voyages, such as resettlement and humanitarian visas.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations

Duration: 1’05″

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