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Emergency summit on migrant boat deaths in the Mediterranean …

  • April 25th, 2015
  • Posted by EU Australia

Migration  EU boatpeopleAn emergency European summit this week, 23.4.15 at Brussels, agreed to step up sea patrols and move on other measures in response to the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean.

The European Union Heads of Government had been jolted into action by the latest, severe tragedy, the capsize of an overloaded boat last Sunday leading to some 800 deaths.

Information put together from accounts by eye witnesses, including the 28 survivors counted to date, indicates it was a three-deck fishing boat out of Libya, with many trapped below decks as the ship went down, possibly locked in.

The vessel had foundered after coming alongside a merchant ship that was waiting to give assistance, bumping it and then getting swamped.

The scores of intending migrants and refugees had trekked to Libya from as far away as Eritrea and Somalia, and Syria; had run foul of brigands and criminals there, increasing their desperation to get away; and had paid premium amounts to get on the boat – estimates varying from $US700 up to US$7000 (A$894 – 9000;, 25.4.15).

Far from an isolated incident it dramatised a bad turn of events this year, with worsening social disintegration and war in Africa and the Middle East pushing more people to leave; and a reduction of sea patrols provided by the Italian navy ahead of the Spring exodus – trying to catch, not-always calmer seas after the Winter. The United Nations has forecast a multiplication of the number of sinkings and deaths on the way across from North Africa to Italy, Malta or Spain.


EU flag movementThe government leaders at Brussels set out a framework to respond to this dangerous tempo of a movement of people of historic proportions; much increasing last year’s estimated 170 000 who made it across and into Europe.

They were following up earlier, urgent talks, as when Interior Ministers from the EU member countries joined Foreign Ministers at a Foreign Affairs Council on immigration in Brussels last Monday, 20.4.15.

The first move now, is to fund a joint patrol scheme further out off the coasts, with pledges of more ships and aircraft; back to the scale of the Italian Mare Nostrum program that ended in 2013, at some €9-million per month (A$12.5-million). Until this time the EU’s Frontex border patrols have been mostly within territorial waters, far away from some of the worst mishaps.

They have agreed to engage against people traffickers, considering an Italian proposal to destroy boats before they are loaded. The idea will need broader international sanction possibly through the UN Security Council.

Point three is to intensify programs to help prevent departures from source countries. That would evoke recollections of a brave, much longer-term EU plan going back to 2007, to provide education and development aid in source countries, and preparation for regulated migration as Europe’s own population continued to age. If it contained wisdom it was bound to take several years to negotiate and put in place, and would entail high costs. See EUAustralia Online, Blitz on illegal immigration to head reforms, 17.5.07.

The Heads of Government also agreed to more of a sharing out of the new arrivals. To date half the 28 EU member states, notably those in Eastern Europe, do not take refugees from the Mediterranean exodus; Western Europe is the preferred goal, and five countries, especially Germany, receive most.


Ian Wishart, Corina Ruhe, Karl Stagno Navarra; Europe’s refugee summit: Do not send me your huddled masses, The Economist, London, 24.4.15.…, (25.4.15).

BBC, London, Mediterranean migrants crisis: What happened on the sinking boat? 23.4.15., (25.4.15).