Foreign and interior ministers from EU members states are to hold urgent talks in Luxembourg to discuss the rapidly rising death toll of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from northern Africa.
On Sunday, a vessel carrying up to 700 migrants from Libya capsized in the waters off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Only 28 survivors have been rescued, despite a rescue operation that included Italian naval and coastguard ships, the Maltese Navy and cargo vessels, and three helicopters.
Ahead of the talks, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that there was “no magic solution” to the issue of migrants attempting to reach European waters on overcrowded smuggling vessels, but said that Europeans had a “moral duty” to protect “human rights, human dignity and the life of human people”.
The UN has described the North Africa-Italy route as the world’s deadliest, with thousands of migrants drowning at sea trying to make the crossing over the past year, after the EU decided to scale back its search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum.
According to the UNHCR, 13,500 migrants arrived in Italian waters aboard smuggling vessels in the last week alone, following a record 170,000 making the crossing last year.