Mediterranean migrants crisis: EU triples funding

EUROPE, APR 24: European leaders are to triple funding for search-and-rescue operations aimed at migrant boats in the Mediterranean following crisis talks in Brussels.

The EU will also look at ways to capture and destroy smugglers’ boats and deploy immigration officers to non-EU countries, officials said.

Several EU member states have promised more ships and other resources.

The summit comes after more than 750 people died on a boat crossing from Libya on Sunday.

Earlier, funerals for 24 of the victims were held in Malta.

The number of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has risen sharply in recent months.

More than 35,000 are thought to have crossed from Africa to Europe this year and some 1,750 have died while attempting the journey. The estimated toll from Sunday’s capsizing was the worst on record.

The boost in funding to some €120m (£86m) brings spending back up to about the level of Mare Nostrum, an Italian-run search-and-rescue operation that was cancelled last year.

Several member states pledged additional naval resources on Thursday.

The UK – in the past a leading advocate of reducing naval patrols – said it would contribute helicopter carrier HMS Bulwark, two patrol boats and three helicopters. Germany, France and Belgium also offered ships.


Analysis: Chris Morris, BBC News, Brussels

Human rights groups are already criticising the summit for failing to expand the operational area of EU-led naval patrols, which could have taken them closer to the Libyan coast. Unless the ships are in the right place, they argue, migrants will continue to drown.

And even if naval operations manage to rescue the vast majority, there are bitter disputes about how to deal with the tens of thousands who make it to safety. Britain for example has said it will provide significant naval support, but it won’t accept more asylum seekers.

Some people in southern Europe say that’s not enough. The burden has to be more equitably shared. But there is no common asylum and immigration policy within the EU. Different countries have very different priorities.

It will take years to get the balance right. This summit is only the start.

A “something must be done” moment


European Council President Donald Tusk said leaders had asked EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini “to propose actions in order to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said any kind of military action could only be based on international law.

“There are two possibilities: either a UN Security Council Resolution or a unity government in Libya. We have neither at the moment,” she said.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the UK and France had “committed to get a resolution from the United Nations for an intervention in Libya”.