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EU blasts inaction as hopes fade for more survivors in latest migrant sea disaster

Handout/ Irish Defence Forces/ AFP | Survivors of the latest migrant sea disaster fill the life rafts provided by Irish Defence Forces, on August 5, 2015

The EU on Thursday accused member states of not doing enough to prevent desperate migrants from making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, saying that regret at the latest deaths was no excuse for inaction.


"Migration is not a popular or pretty topic. It is easy to cry in front of your TV set when witnessing these tragedies. It is harder to stand up and take responsibility," top EU officials said in a statement.

"What we need now is the collective courage to follow through with concrete action on words that will otherwise ring empty," said the statement issued by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini and Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avrampoulos.

The comments come as hopes faded of finding more survivors of the latest Mediterranean boat tragedy, in which an estimated 200 migrants drowned.

Vessels from the Italian and Irish navies and humanitarian agency Medecins sans Frontiers (MSF) on Wednesday saved more than 370 people from a capsized boat thought to be carrying up to 600. They were brought to safety in Sicily on Thursday.

They recovered 25 bodies but found no more survivors after scouring the waters overnight. Italian vessels continued to search the area on Thursday, a coastguard spokesman said.

Initial reports put about 700 passengers on the overcrowded fishing boat but interviews with survivors - mostly Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war - reduced that estimate and the figure could still change.

More than 2,000 deaths

More than 2,000 people have died at sea so far this year while nearly 190,000 have had to be rescued as they made the crossing.

Italy, Greece and Malta have borne the brunt of the influx and Rome has led demands that its EU partners do more to share the burden.

In April, after an even worse disaster estimated to have cost 800 migrant lives, the 28 European Union leaders agreed to take urgent action -- to step up rescue efforts at sea and to try and halt the problem at source, including the use of limited military action against people traffickers in Libya.

The bloc failed however to agree last month on how to distribute 40,000 mostly Syrian and Eritrean migrants from overstretched Italy and Greece.

Member states offered to take in some 32,000, plus another 22,500 Syrian asylum seekers currently in camps outside the EU.

Given the numbers involved and the scale of upheaval across North Africa and the Middle East, many believe the problem dwarfs such measures.

In their statement, the three EU officials said that despite the bloc's efforts, "It is not enough and will never be enough to prevent all tragedies".

"There is no simple, nor single, answer to the challenges posed by migration... nor can any member state effectively address migration alone. It is clear that we need a new, more European approach."


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