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IMMIGRATION

EU to hold urgent meeting after migrant boat disaster

Giovanni Isolino, AFP I A boat transporting migrants arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at see on April 18, 2015 in Sicily.
Giovanni Isolino, AFP I A boat transporting migrants arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at see on April 18, 2015 in Sicily.

The European Union on Sunday called an emergency meeting of ministers to discuss what its top EU diplomat said was the "unacceptable" tragedy of up to 700 people feared drowned in the latest Mediterranean migrant shipwreck.

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As many as 700 people are feared dead after a fishing boat packed with migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight.

The European Commission said the meeting would involve foreign and interior ministers from the 28-member bloc, but gave no date.

"The reality is stark and our actions must therefore be bold. These are human lives at stake, and the European Union as a whole has a moral and humanitarian obligation to act," it said in a statement.

The Commission said it is consulting with member states, European agencies and international organisations to prepare a new European migration strategy, which it would adopt in mid-May.

"What we need is immediate actions to prevent further loss of life as well as a comprehensive approach to managing migration better in all its aspects."

French President Francois Hollande called earlier Sunday for such a meeting, saying Europe "must act" against the growing catalogue of mass drownings of migrants attempting to reach its shores, and calling for closer surveillance of the routes used by people smugglers.

'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.

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: "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."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters)

 

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