Malta warns EU waters ‘a cemetery’ after fresh tragedy

BBC News – Maltese PM Joseph Muscat says European waters close to Africa are turning into a cemetery, after another boat laden with migrants capsized.

Mr Muscat said Malta felt “abandoned” by the rest of Europe and insisted that the EU had to take action.

Malta and Italy launched a rescue operation after a boat capsized on Friday, leaving at least 27 dead.

It happened 120km (70 miles) off Lampedusa, the Italian island where at least 300 migrants drowned last week.

The loss of life has renewed the debate within EU member states on migration rules.

In the latest incident, the vessel carrying more than 200 migrants is believed to have encountered difficulties in Maltese waters just before sunset on Friday.

The migrants used a satellite phone to raise the alarm but the boat capsized when passengers crowded to one side as they tried to get the attention of a passing aircraft, the Maltese navy said.

Earlier on Friday, at least 500 other migrants travelling in separate boats were rescued in coastguard operations near the Italian island of Sicily.

Also on Friday, a separate boat accident off the Egyptian port of Alexandria claimed the lives of at least 12 migrants.

Egyptian security officials said 116 people, mostly Palestinians and Syrians, were pulled from the water.

Mr Muscat said prompt action between Malta and Italy had saved lives, but he complained that “from the European side we have heard only talk, empty talk really”.

“Right now politicians are thinking about tightening or loosening migration rules. In our case our main concern is these people at sea,” he said.

“We feel abandoned by Europe. I don’t know how many more people need to die at sea before something gets done. We will make sure our voice is heard during the next European Council. Rules need to change, whether they are tighter or looser is not the issue, the fact is that this thing is broken and it needs to be fixed.”

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