EU Holds Urgent Talks on Migrant Deaths

EU Holds Urgent Talks on Migrant DeathsEU Holds Urgent Talks on Migrant Deaths

EU foreign and interior ministers are due to meet in Luxembourg to discuss the deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa.

Some southern European nations say the EU’s credibility is now at stake after last year’s decision to scale back search and rescue efforts, BBC reported.

On Sunday, hundreds are believed to have drowned after their boat sank off the coast of Libya.

The UN says the North Africa-Italy route has become the world’s deadliest.

The 20m (70ft) long boat was believed to be carrying up to 700 migrants, and only 28 survivors have been rescued.

A boat carrying coffins of the 24 victims found so far has just arrived in Malta, the Italian Coastguard says.

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said an emergency EU summit by the end of this week had to be a priority, adding trafficking was “a plague in our continent” and bemoaned the lack of European solidarity.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that Libya is key to resolving the crisis: “We have what is possibly becoming a failed state at our doorstep. We have criminal gangs having a heyday organizing these trips in rickety boats... We need to get the Libyan factions together to form some sort of government of almost national unity.”

Human smugglers are taking advantage of the political crisis in Libya to use it as a launching point for boats carrying migrants who are fleeing violence or economic hardship in Africa and the Middle East.

Up to 1,500 migrants are now feared to have drowned this year alone.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the latest sinking could amount to the largest loss of life during a migrant crossing to Europe.

  ‘Words Won’t Do Anymore’

Many EU governments are reluctant to fund rescue operations in the Mediterranean for fear of encouraging more people to make the crossing in search of a better life in Europe, France 24 reported.

In indirect criticism of northern EU countries that have so far left rescue operations to southern states such as Italy, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said ahead of the foreign ministers meeting there was “no easy solution, no magic solution”.

She said: “We need to save human lives all together, as all together we need to protect our borders and to fight the trafficking of human beings.”

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also urged the EU to take swift action after what could become the Mediterranean’s deadliest known migrant sea disaster.

“Today, and this is the umpteenth time, we hear of yet another human tragedy in the Mediterranean, off the Libyan coast,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a political rally Sunday. “It’s a daily drama. Three days ago it was 400 people.”

Rajoy says a response has to come from Europe and that “words won’t do anymore.” He says “we have to act, and as Europeans we are gambling with our credibility if we aren’t able to stop these dramatic situations, that are now happening on a daily basis.”