European leaders have agreed to treble the budget of the EU’s Triton search and rescue operation in a bid to save the lives of migrants attempting to reach Europe.
They will also step up cooperation against human traffickers who have led hundreds of migrants to their deaths in the central Mediterranean, European Council President Donald Tusk said at a press conference after Thursday’s special summit on migration.
“Leaders have asked the High Representative to propose actions in order to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used,” Tusk told journalists at the briefing. “Naturally that will be in line with international law and respect for human rights.”
The EU will work with countries of transit and origin to limit irregular migration. It will also do more to protect migrants who manage to reach Europe and support EU member states at the frontline of the crisis.
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said he was disappointed leaders had not been able to agree on expanding immigration quotas. But he said the matter would be taken up at a later date.
“I wanted us to be more ambitious on this, but it wasn’t possible. But our conclusions will allow us to continue our reflection and you will see the outcome in mid-May.”
Protesters outside the meeting in Brussels called on the EU to provide safe and legal ways for migrants to seek asylum in Europe.
In the first four months of this year, 1,700 migrants have drowned while attempting to reach Italy.
Funerals were held today in Malta for 24 victims of Sunday’s disaster, when 800 migrants drowned after their overloaded boat sank off the coast of Libya.