April 21, 2015 / 7:55 PM / 2 years ago

U.N. Security Council concerned by Mediterranean migrant smuggling

UNITED NATIONS (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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