Italian and Maltese authorities have criticised the European Union following the latest migrant boat disaster in the Mediterranean.
Rescuers have recovered more than 30 bodies and some reports say around 50 people died in the second major tragedy in a week.
Scores more were rescued. As many of the Syrians and Palestinians were brought ashore in Malta, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the island felt abandoned and isolated by Europe.
“We will never risk the life of any person but rules have to change and there needs to be a more European approach to safe patrols. We have to discuss in a very sensible manner whether we need to tighten the rules or loosen them,” he said in a telephone interview.
The boat sank on Friday about 100 kilometres south of Lampedusa, just hours after another vessel capsized near the Egyptian port of Alexandria, killing at least a dozen people. More than 100 others were rescued.
Those arriving on the Italian island overnight included migrants from a different boat in the area – all this a week after hundreds died when a ship sank close to Lampedusa’s coast.
“Lampedusa can’t deal with it. Europe needs to be aware of this. Lampedusa is too small to constitute a border and also support the weight of all this dreadful tragedy,” said Lampedusa’s Mayor Giusi Nicolini.
The EU praised the rescue operation by the Italians and the Maltese.
The Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström has called for a vast security and rescue operation across the Mediterranean.
But whereas last week’s 300-plus victims came from the Horn of Africa, the latest migrants came from the Middle East. Addressing the root causes of their perilous journeys will be an enormous task.