European ministers have put forward a 10-point plan in response to the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
It includes boosting EU search and rescue missions, destroying smugglers’ boats and sending migrants back home.
“We have decided to set up a joint task force to counter smuggling and trafficking networks that can be operational from the very first days following tomorrow,” Federica Mogherini, the head of the EU foreign ministry, said at a press conference after Monday’s meeting.
The EU took swift action after around 700 migrants died this weekend when their boat sank off the coast of Libya while attempting to reach Italy.
But Council president Donald Tusk warned that there won’t be any easy answers.
“I do not expect any quick fix solution to the root causes of the migration. Because there are non. Had they existed, we would have used the long ago. But I do expect that the Commission and the European External Action Service will present options for immediate action.”
Outside the EU parliament in Brussels, meanwhile, activists held a demonstration, demanding action and solidarity from member states.
“Only six member states out of 28 are responsible for 75% of all asylum requests,” said centre-left MEP Elly Schlein. “Where are the other 22 governments? Where is the sharing of responsibilities? The governments have always been too jealous of their powers regarding immigration. Now is the time to see is we can be the Europe we want to be.”
Activist Samba Ba was also at the demonstration. He appealed for Europeans to show compassion and remember why the migrants are taking such risks.
“Nobody leaves their country in search of snow; they leave because there is war, there is trouble,” he explained. “And what do they want? They want to be treated as they are, as human beings. They want to live with dignity, and work like any human being.”
EC head Tusk has called a special summit of EU leaders for Thursday.
Since the start of the year, over 2,000 migrants have died at sea attempting to reach Europe.