Lead­ers visit navy ship af­ter mi­grant boat dis­as­ter

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the Mediter­ranean had be­come “a sea of tears” as he joined Ital­ian prime min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi and EU for­eign min­is­ter Fed­er­ica Mogherini aboard a navy ship Mon­day to high­light the plight of mi­grants risk­ing their lives to reach Europe.

The sym­bolic visit to Italy’s San Giusto ves­sel off the coast of Si­cily came just over a week af­ter more than 750 peo­ple drowned in the Mediter­ranean’s worst mi­grant ship­wreck yet, amid a re­cent spike in the num­ber of peo­ple at­tempt­ing the per­ilous cross­ing from north Africa.

The Mediter­ranean “has sadly be­come a sea of tears, a sea of mis­ery,” United Na­tions Sec­re­taryGen­eral Ban Ki-moon said aboard the ship, prais­ing Italy’s mar­itime search and res­cue ef­forts

“I think it seems to be the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis since the Sec­ond World War. So many thou­sands of peo­ple have lost their lives in their pur­suit for a bet­ter fu­ture,” Ban said ac­cord­ing to re­marks sent to the me­dia by the U.N.

“Not a sin­gle coun­try — like Italy — can bear all this re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he added.

Spurred into ac­tion by last Sun­day’s mas­sive ship­wreck, Euro­pean Union lead­ers have pledged to triple fund­ing for the bloc’s mar­itime sur­veil­lance op­er­a­tion.

Brussels also wants U.N. ap­proval for an EU mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion against the peo­ple smug­glers in Libya who or­ga­nize the haz­ardous cross­ings, of­ten on over­crowded, rick­ety boats.

“Stop­ping the hu­man traf­fick­ers to pre­vent a hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe is an ab­so­lute pri­or­ity for which we con­tinue to have the sup­port of the United Na­tions,” Ital­ian pre­mier Renzi was quoted as say­ing by Ansa news agency upon his re­turn to shore.

Mon­day’s high-level gath­er­ing at sea was billed by the EU as a show of “sol­i­dar­ity” with those af­fected by the mi­grant cri­sis.

It came ahead of a se­ries of meet- ings planned by Mogherini this week to win sup­port for “a com­mon ef­fort to ad­dress the is­sue of migration,” the EU said in a state­ment at the week­end.

‘Po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion’

The U.N. chief ap­peared to con­firm that stance Mon­day when he said it was im­por­tant to tackle the “root causes” of why peo­ple are leav­ing their coun­tries in the first place.

“We also have to find (a) po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion, on the ground, par­tic­u­larly in Libya,” he said, adding that he was count­ing on the Euro­pean Union’s “con­tin­u­ing lead­er­ship .”

Mogherini on Sun­day said it would not be easy for the EU to se­cure a U.N. man­date, or the ap­proval of the Libyan au­thor­i­ties, which have not yet formed a unity gov­ern­ment.

More than 1,750 mi­grants have died in ship­wrecks this year — 30 times more than the same pe­riod in 2014.

Many of th­ese peo­ple are smug­gled in on boats from Libya, which has long been a tran­sit coun­try for African mi­grants.

Peo­ple flee­ing vi­o­lence in the Mid­dle East, es­pe­cially in Syria, are also us­ing Libya as a tran­sit coun­try.

On Mon­day, an Ital­ian navy ship reached the south­ern port of Taranto with 274 mi­grants on board af­ter they were res­cued at sea.

Rights groups have re­peat­edly warned that mi­grants are aware of the deadly risks in­volved in trav­el­ing across the Mediter­ranean on rick­ety boats, but that their des­per­a­tion to flee war and poverty pushes them to make the jour­ney any­way.

AP

In this photo pro­vided by the Ital­ian pre­mier’s of­fice, Ital­ian Navy Rear Adm. Pier­paolo Ribuffo, left, speaks with United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, cen­ter, Ital­ian pre­mier Mat­teo Renzi, right, and Euro­pean Union for­eign min­is­ter Fed­er­ica Mogherini, sec­ond right, dur­ing a visit to the Ital­ian Navy ship San Giusto, as it sails off the Si­cil­ian coast in the Mediter­ranean Sea on Mon­day, April 27.

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