The mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, has blamed the death of 29 migrants on the closure of the country’s sea search-and-rescue mission.
The victims died of hypothermia aboard Italian coast guard vessels after being picked up from an inflatable boat adrift near Libya.
Coast guard commander Giovanni Pettorino said: “criminal smugglers were sending people to certain death and also endangering the live of rescuers.”
Italy’s search-and-rescue mission shut down last year.
Since then no navy ships capable of keeping large numbers of migrants below deck have patrolled the waters near the Libyan coast.