‘No more ex­cuses,’ EU warns as an­other boat sinks

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRYAN MCMANUS AND AN­GUS MACKIN­NON

EU for­eign min­is­ter Fed­er­ica Mogherini told mem­ber states Mon­day they had “no more ex­cuses” not to act on the Mediter­ranean mi­grant cri­sis as re­ports came through of an­other boat sink­ing with 300 peo­ple on board.

More than 700 peo­ple were feared dead af­ter a fish­ing boat crammed with mi­grants seek­ing a bet­ter life in Europe cap­sized off Libya on Sun­day, with some sur­vivors sug­gest­ing nearly 1,000 could have been on board.

As EU for­eign and in­te­ri­ors met to dis­cuss their re­sponse to the wors­en­ing cri­sis, the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Migration said it had re­ceived a dis­tress call from an­other boat in the Mediter­ranean car­ry­ing more than 300 peo­ple, with at least 20 re­ported dead.

“The caller said that there are over 300 peo­ple on his boat and it is al­ready sink­ing (and) he has al­ready re­ported fa­tal­i­ties, 20 at least,” the IOM’s Fed­erico Soda wrote in an email.

Soda said the IOM had given the Ital­ian coast guard the co­or­di­nates for that and two other dis­tressed ves­sels, but that they were still tied up with the ear­lier ship­wreck.

Ar­riv­ing for the min­is­te­rial talks in Lux­em­bourg, Mogherini said the 28-na­tion bloc “has no more ex­cuses, the mem­ber states have no more ex­cuses.”

“We need im­me­di­ate ac­tion from the EU and the mem­ber states,” she added.

An ‘avoid­able’ Dis­as­ter

Ital­ian and Mal­tese navy boats con­tin­ued to scour wa­ters off Libya for the vic­tims of Sun­day’s dis­as­ter — the lat­est in a string of ship- wrecks, which have claimed well over 1,000 lives since the start of 2015.

But the out­look ap­peared grim, with only 28 sur­vivors res­cued so far, along with 24 bod­ies.

One sur­vivor told Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties that there were as many as 950 peo­ple on board and that some of them had been locked be­low deck by the smug­glers.

The mass drown­ing, be­lieved to be the dead­li­est in the Mediter­ranean, caused an out­cry across Europe, where news­pa­pers called it the “EU’s dark­est day.”

“Euro­pean lead­ers knew full well that the num­ber of vic­tims at sea from African migration would smash records from the spring,” Bel­gium daily Le Soir wrote.

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel of Ger­many, which is the top des­ti­na­tion in Europe for mi­grants, said she was “ap­palled” by the dis­as­ter, call­ing it “not wor­thy of Europe.”

“A con­ti­nent which feels com­mit­ted to hu­man­ity must look for an­swers even when there are no easy an­swers,” her spokesman quoted her as say­ing.

Refugee and rights bod­ies de­manded Euro­pean gov­ern­ments beef up mar­itime res­cue op­er­a­tions and ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing causes of the flood of asy­lum-seek­ers and mi­grants wash­ing up on Europe’s shores.

Malta’s Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat urged the EU to ad­dress the chaos in war-torn Libya, which peo­ple smug­glers have made the main launch­ing pad for over­loaded rick­ety boats.

“We have what is fast be­com­ing a failed state on our doorsteps and crim­i­nal gangs are en­joy­ing a hey­day,” he said.

The United King­dom and France led the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion that paved the way for the ouster of long­time dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gad­hafi in a 2011 up­ris­ing.

Since then Libya has been torn be­tween ri­val fac­tions fight­ing it out for con­trol of the oil-rich state.

Mogherini, a for­mer Ital­ian for­eign min­is­ter, has been push­ing the EU to be more pro-ac­tive on Libya.

Just as the Is­lamist at­tacks in Paris in Jan­uary had gen­er­ated a com­mon re­sponse, so this in­ci­dent should give mo­men­tum to find­ing a com­mon migration pol­icy, she said.

“The main is­sue here is to build a com­mon sense of Euro­pean re­spon­si­bil­ity, know­ing that there is no easy so­lu­tion,” she added.

AP

(Top) In this im­age taken from a video at www.ro­di­aki.gr mi­grants come ashore from the wreck­age on the eastern Aegean is­land of Rhodes, Greece on Mon­day, April 20. Greek au­thor­i­ties said that at least three peo­ple have died, in­clud­ing a child, af­ter a wooden boat car­ry­ing tens of mi­grants ran aground off the is­land of Rhodes. (Above) Sur­vivors of the smug­gler’s boat that over­turned off the coast of Libya lie on the deck of the Ital­ian Coast Guard ship Bruno Gre­goretti, in Val­letta’s Grand Har­bour on Mon­day. A smug­gler’s boat crammed with hun­dreds of peo­ple over­turned off Libya’s coast on Satur­day, caus­ing what could be the Mediter­ranean’s dead­li­est known mi­grant tragedy.

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