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BRUSSELS: Shipowners and operators have joined with seafarers' unions to urge EU Member States to take immediate action to address a growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.

refugees 1The European Community Shipowners' Associations, the European Transport Workers' Federation, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers' Federation want the EU to increase search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean due to what they say are the "untenable" dangerous rescues by merchant ships.

In a letter to the leaders of 28 EU countries, the maritime representatives warn the crisis that cost 3,500 lives last year is "out of control" and will lead to "further catastrophic loss of life" without immediate action: "The shipping industry believes that all EU and EEA Member States have a collective responsibility to prevent the loss of thousands more lives, as hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees seek to escape to Europe in boats that are unfit for purpose. The need to act immediately is pressing and urgent," they add.

Shipowners say their vessels rescued 40,000 people last year and argue it is unacceptable that the international community is increasingly relying on merchant ships and their crews to undertake more and more large-scale rescues of up to 500 people at a time.

Noting the situation is a matter of "life and death", the shipping industry says the issue should be added to the agenda of the European Council and to that of the next relevant meetings of the EU Council of Ministers.

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