Emergency EU Council convened over refugee concerns in the Mediterranean

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By Euronews
Approximately 160,000 migrants are expected on European shores this year
Approximately 160,000 migrants are expected on European shores this year   -   Copyright  Euronews

European interior ministers welcomed a plan on Friday to better coordinate the bloc’s response to migrant arrivals.

The move follows growing concern in the bloc following a recent diplomatic row between France and Italy over the Ocean Viking ship, as well as the arrival of 450 migrants on the Greek island of Crete.

The Cypriot Minister of the Interior was one of many politicians to express his fears.

"We are seeing that traffickers are adopting new methods and means. Now, they use large private boats, and commercial ships to transport migrants," said Nicos Nouris.

"We consider this to be a dangerous tactic and we are talking about large numbers of people. Honestly, I don't know how the Mediterranean countries will manage to face this new threat," he explained.

A diplomatic row erupted earlier this month when Italy forced France to accept a humanitarian rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, with 234 migrants aboard.

France retaliated by suspending its participation in an EU solidarity pact to accept 3,000 people who had arrived this year in Italy and sent officers to reinforce its southern border crossings and prevent migrants from entering.

While the ministers described the meeting as production, Vit Rakusan, an interior minister for Czechia, said they had also agreed "more can and must be done" to find a lasting solution.

The ministers will gather again at a pre-planned meeting on 8 December to continue the "difficult discussion", he said.

Southern Mediterranean countries also want member states to start taking in more refugees.

Member states have so far offered to take in less than 2,000 out of 160,000 migrants that arrive on European shores every year.

For years, member countries have argued over who should take responsibility for those arriving and whether partner countries should be obliged to help. 

Unable to agree, the nations have sought to outsource the problem by clinching deals with north African countries like Libya.

EU countries and the Commission have also rejected any attempts to set up a concerted search and rescue mission to deal with the problem, arguing that such a scheme would only attract more people.