UNHCR shocked by boat tragedy off Lampedusa

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres expresses his shock at today's boat tragedy off the Italian island of Lampedusa, which so far is reported to have claimed 82 lives.

Mr. Guterres commended the swift action taken by the Italian coast guard to save lives. At the same time, he expressed his dismay at a rising global phenomenon of migrants and people fleeing conflict or persecution and perishing at sea.

Of the estimated 500 passengers on the boat, believed to be Eritreans, only 147 have been rescued so far. The boat, which originated from Libya, caught fire half a mile from the coast.

UNHCR is actively engaging with countries in the region to provide effective alternatives for people resorting to taking these dangerous journeys so they don't have to risk their lives.

This is the second boat disaster this week off Italy's coast. 13 men drowned off the Southern coast of Italy on Monday when they attempted to swim ashore.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Dan McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 3011
  • In Rome, Federico Fossi on mobile +39 331 635 55 17
  • In Rome, Barbara Molinario on mobile +39 338 546 2932

Lampedusa Tragedy: UNHCR's Protection Chief Comments