Seeking solutions to the Mediterranean migrant crisis, European Union leaders have gathered for an emergency summit in Brussels.
Greece and Italy are the gateway to Europe for those fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
But with record numbers drowning in the attempt, including up to 900 migrants from one boat killed last Sunday, the EU as a whole is being urged to act now to stem the loss of life.
While increased naval patrols look set to be announced, the fear is that Thursday’s show of solidarity could be a short-lived cosmetic exercise.
A draft EU statement seen by Reuters after four hours of talks lists 13 proposals.
But only the first point, “strengthening our presence at sea”, which involves “at least doubling” financing and boosting the naval presence, is likely to translate into action soon.
Other proposals include “surgical strikes” on boats about to be used by people smugglers and other intelligence-led actions to “destroy the business model” of human traffickers.
However, diplomats said some states insisted that would need a UN Security Council mandate that the EU was unlikely to get in the middle of its confrontation with veto-holding Russia.
Adding to the complexity, the group which controls the part of Libya around Tripoli said it would “confront” any such EU military action against its coastline.
Italy shut down a mission that saved the lives of more than 100,000 migrants last year because other EU countries refused to pay for it.
It was replaced with a smaller EU scheme whose main focus is to patrol the bloc’s borders, after countries argued that saving migrants encouraged more to come.
EU officials say that once leaders go round the table making pledges of help, the total increase announced may be greater.
But practical, legal and political headaches posed by military action in Libya, setting up “reception centres” abroad or even redistributing refugees around EU states are far from solved.
The EU pledges have already been slammed as ‘woefully inadequate and shameful’ by Amnesty International.
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