Leaders from Italy, the EU and UN boarded an Italian naval vessel off the coast of Sicily to see at first hand the Mediterranean operation to deal with African migrants.
For Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it was also a chance to smooth over differences.
Last week UN experts castigated the European Union’s handling of the problem for over-emphasising security and repression, after it announced that funding for the Triton border protection operation would be tripled.
On Monday another batch of nearly 270 migrants – mostly men – were brought to the Italian port of Taranto after being rescued from a boat off Libya.
Others don’t make it to sea. Despite the chaos in the country, many migrants who travel across Africa wind up in a detention centre.
Nearly 700 migrants from Senegal, Nigeria, Eritrea and Ethiopia are housed at the Zawya and Sorman camps in western Libya.
Men and women are separated and there are complaints of inhumane treatment at the hands of the Libyan militias in charge.
“A lot of people here are sick, and some have allergies, and people are dying. Many of us came all the way from Eritrea to this prison for nothing,” said one young migrant.
Another young man, from Nigeria, became agitated as he made an emotional appeal: “So they have no plan for us all they do to us is beat us, treat us like slaves and take us as slaves and make us do all sort of work they like. We have nowhere to go to, please we need your help, help us, we need your help, help us get out of this place. Please before we die here,” he cried.
Meanwhile other migrants keep coming, as the UN tries to mediate between Libya’s rival governments, their future is far from certain.