European foreign and interior ministers, at a joint meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, presented a 10-point plan on the immediate actions to be taken in response to the migrant crisis after a series of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea.
The plan called for reinforcing joint operations in the Mediterranean Sea, and increasing financial resources and number of assets, according to a European Commission (EC) press release, Xinhua reported.
In addition, the European Union’s (EU) justice and home affairs agencies — EUROPOL, FRONTEX, EASO and EUROJUST — will meet regularly and work closely to gather information on smugglers’ modus operandi, trace their funds, and assist in probes.
The plan also includes a voluntary pilot project across the EU on resettlement, and a new programme for the rapid return of irregular migrants.
EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, jointly stated: “The dire situation in the Mediterranean is not a new, nor a passing reality,” adding that the EC would reveal a comprehensive European agenda on migration in May to address the issue.
They said the 10 points of action presented on Monday were “the direct, substantial measures we will take to make an immediate difference”. Nearly 700 migrants were feared to have drowned after their boat sank about 200 km south of the Italian island of Lampedusa on Saturday night.
This disaster followed a similar tragedy last week, in which over 400 migrants were believed to have drowned after their vessel sank off the Libyan coast.
In the latest accident, at least three people drowned as a vessel carrying them sank off the Greek island of Rhodes in the southeastern Aegean Sea, media reported on Monday.
At least 218,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea last year to enter the EU from its southern borders in search of a better life. Some 3,500 of them lost their lives in the attempt, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a recent statement, adding that the trend is “expected to continue”.
The majority of the migrants taking to sea in an attempt to reach Europe are from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat on Monday called for a common EU action to target traffickers organising the illegal travel of migrants from Libya. (IANS)