EU urges aid for Libyan refugees at sea

2011-08-06 08:21

The European Union (EU) executive yesterday condemned the deaths at sea of refugees fleeing Libya and demanded that all vessels give aid to people in distress.

It also urged EU nations to help resettle migrants.

Home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said: “All vessels have an obligation to render assistance to those in distress at sea.”

Italy earlier urged Nato to help rescue refugees fleeing Libya in boats and demanded an inquiry into its reported failure to assist a stricken boat on which dozens were said to have died of dehydration.

Nato replied that it had been told by Italy on Thursday about a distress call but had then been informed that Italian coast guards had responded to the incident.

“Facts of the incident are still emerging and we are working closely with Italian authorities to fully clarify the matter,” said Nato spokeswoman Carmen Romero.

She said Nato had assisted refugees in the past.

However, Malmstroem also insisted that European Union and third nations had to ensure safe disembarkation facilities for such refugees as well as to offer safe haven.

“Europe needs to live up to its own responsibilities,” she said in a statement.

“I therefore call upon member states to engage more intensively in the resettlement of people in need of international protection.

“The acceleration of an EU-wide resettlement programme and a greater intake of refugees would demonstrate an increased and much needed commitment to solidarity and the sharing of responsibility and would help to reduce the number of people putting their lives at risk to reach European shores.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva says around 24?000 refugees from Libya have landed on Italian shores.

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