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EU faces challenges amid migrant deaths in Mediterranean

Foreign ministers meet as EU foreign policy chief says no 'magic solution' exists to migrant crisis.

20.04.2015
EU faces challenges amid migrant deaths in Mediterranean

By Ilgin Karlidag

BRUSSELS

There is no “magic solution” to the migrant crisis facing the European Union in the Mediterranean, the EU’s foreign policy chief said on Monday.

Federica Mogherini was speaking as EU foreign ministers gathered in Luxembourg after the drowning of around 700 migrants off the Libyan coast on Sunday.

The bloc could call for an emergency summit later this week, Mogherini told reporters ahead of the meeting.

"I felt it was our moral duty to concentrate our responsibility as Europeans to prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening again and again," she said. "We must build a common sense of European responsibility... knowing that there is no easy solution, no magic solution.”

A boat carrying approximately 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea on its way to Italy from Libya on Sunday. Most of those on board are thought to have drowned.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized European leaders for their decision in November last year to shut down the EU's Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation, which used to save migrants who were at risk of drowning.

The EU now runs a more limited operation called Triton under the bloc’s Frontex border controls agency.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni Silveri told reporters ahead of Monday’s meeting: "We need more resources both for monitoring and rescuing in the sea. We need more resources also for the reception of migrants.

"Today and in the next meetings in the next days all European Union [member states] will understand that our reputation is at stake.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said ahead of the meeting that the Frontex border controls agency needs to be developed and that the EU should also share the burden of helping refugees.

"I will also make sure EU member states share the responsibility of helping refugees in [a] much more even way and fair way until today," he said. Sweden has already pledged to accept thousands of Syrian refugees escaping the civil war.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters that the EU must target criminals involved in people trafficking.

"We have to tackle them. We have got to work upstream in the countries from which these people are coming and we are determined to put an end to this vile trade," he said.

British Premier David Cameron added: "These are very dark days for Europe. It really is horrific, the scenes that we have all witnessed on our television screens, the loss of life.

“I believe what's necessary is a comprehensive approach. We've got to deal with the instability in the countries concerned, we've got to go after the human traffickers and the criminals that are running this trade.”


 

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