Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that "any boat that is leaving Libya should be considered, at first glance, as a boat in need of assistance."

The U.N. refugee agency has appealed to European countries to step up efforts to rescue people fleeing Libya in overloaded and unseaworthy boats.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says European authorities patrolling the Mediterranean shouldn’t wait to receive distress calls from stricken vessels.

Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that “any boat that is leaving Libya should be considered, at first glance, as a boat in need of assistance.”

Ms. Fleming says a senior Somali diplomat in Tripoli told the agency that 16 bodies including those of two babies have so far been retrieved from a boat carrying 600 people that sank just outside the Libyan capital on Friday.

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