UN Security Council concerned by Mediterranean migrant smuggling
UNITED NATIONS, April 21 (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council expressed grave concern on Tuesday at the growth in people smuggling in the Mediterranean Sea and deplored Sunday's deadly shipwreck of migrants trying to reach Europe that may have killed as many as 900 people.
The large boat capsized off the coast of Libya as it was trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa. More than 36,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, the U.N. says, most fleeing from Libya.
"The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya," the 15-member body said in a statement.
The council also said it was worried about "the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants, condemned and deplored the said acts and underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice."
The United Nations has said nearly 1,800 people are feared to have died in attempted crossings of the Mediterranean.
On Monday, the European Union proposed doubling the size of its Mediterranean search and rescue operations after a decision to scale back naval operations last year appeared to have increased the risks for migrants without reducing their numbers.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday described the Mediterranean as "fast becoming a sea of misery."
"More than twice as many migrants have died at sea in the past year than on the Titanic," Ban said, referring to the ship that sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg. "It should shock the global conscience."
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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Libya stops boats packed with hundreds of migrants leaving for Europe -official
TRIPOLI, April 21 (Reuters) - Libya has stopped several boats packed with Africans trying to reach Italy's shores in the past three days, detaining more than 600 immigrants, a security official said on Tuesday.
The North African country, gripped by violence and a breakdown of state authority four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, has turned into major hub for human traffickers smuggling African emigrants by boat to Italy.
As many as 900 people may have died on Sunday off Libya's coast when their packed boat capsized as they were trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.
More than 36,000 have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, the U.N. says, mostly using Libya as their launch pad, and nearly 1,800 are feared to have died in the attempt.
Libyan security forces detained on Tuesday around 70 Africans in Tripoli where they were waiting for smugglers to put them on a boat bound for Lampedusa, a senior immigration official told Reuters in Tripoli.
At least two boats, one packed with some 250 people from Senegal, Ghana and Ethiopia and other African nationalities and another one with Ethiopians and Eritreans on board, were stopped in the past three days after sailing off from Libya, he said.
Captured immigrants are held in often cramped detention centres in Libya, sometimes for months on end, human rights groups say.
Libya's coast guards have few resources to combat human trafficking, and rely on fishing and tug boats.
The European Union helped in the past to train and equip Libyan coast guards, but a worsening security situation has forced foreign training staff to leave the country.
A self-declared Libyan government controlling Tripoli has appealed to foreign countries to help it fight human trafficking but European powers are boycotting the administration which took power after an armed group seized the capital in August.
World powers only recognise premier Abdullah al-Thinni who has been based with his cabinet in the east since losing control of the capital last summer.
On Monday, the European Union proposed doubling the size of its Mediterranean search and rescue operations after a decision to scale back naval operations last year appeared to have increased the risks for migrants without reducing their numbers. (Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Ulf Laessing)
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