Malta PM: Mediterranean becoming a 'cemetery'

The recent deaths prompted renewed calls for the European Union to do more to better patrol the southern Mediterranean and prevent tragedies - and for countries like Libya to crack down on smuggling operations.

Lampedusa is the destination of choice for smugglers. Credit: Google Maps

"We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a cemetery," Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said.

Lampedusa is the destination of choice for smugglers who usually charge more than 1,000 euro (£850) a head and cram the migrants onto boats that routinely run into trouble and require rescue.

Fortress Europe, an Italian observatory that tracks migrant deaths reported by the media, says about 6,450 people died in the Canal of Sicily between 1994 and 2012.

Read: Migrant boat sinks killing 27

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'Shots fired' as migrants fled

Migrants who were rescued after their boat sank in the Mediterranean claim they were shot at as they left a Libyan port. Thirty-four people were killed after the boat capsized south of Sicily, the Italian coastguard said.