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UN and IOM call for Europe to resume search and rescue after latest Mediterranean deaths

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Migrants rescued in Central Mediterranean
Migrants rescued in Central Mediterranean   -   Copyright  PIlotes Volontaires
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The UNHCR and IOM are calling for European countries to resume and strengthen Europe's search and rescue system after yet more deaths in the Central Mediterranean.

At least 41 migrants drowned after their boat capsized over the weekend. Several children were among the dozens who perished after their dinghy took on water off the coast of Libya.

Just one body has been recovered the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a statement. Three children and four women are missing, one of whom has a newborn baby in Lampedusa.

A commercial vessel rescued the survivors and took them to the Sicilian port town of Porto Empedocle in Italy. They were all tested for COVID-19.

"They were a group of at least 120 people. They had problems very soon. They started taking in water. Some of them fell in the sea and six of them died," said Carlotta Sami, the UN refugee agency spokesperson in Italy.

"They went missing during the hard rescue operation pursued by the commercial vessel Vos Triton."

It's the second deadliest shipwreck in the central Mediterranean this year, bringing the number of dead and missing up to some 160 people.

UN data shows that out of the 3,800 people who arrived in Italy by sea this year, 2,527 departed from Libya.

But there have been 3,580 returns to Libya as well in the same period from January 1, 2021 to February 21, 2021, despite the organisations stating that the war-torn country should not be considered a safe port.