Emergency EU Meeting To Save Drowning Migrants

Ministers of the European Union met in Luxembourg today to discuss the escalating migrant problem, coming up with a 10-point plan to combat the rising migrant deaths due to drowning, numbering possibly over a thousand.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini voiced the tone of the meeting, which was a call to urgent action to curb the problem. EU ministers outlined a 10-point plan to quell the migrant influx, to be taken into effect immediately. They plan to increase military operations such as Triton and Poseidon, joint operations meant to scout the Mediterranean and destroy or apprehend smugglers and other unidentified boats. On the non-combative front, member states of the EU will provide quicker processing for either the deportation or asylum of migrants. The EU is also asking the countries surrounding Libya to aid in their increased investigations into the details and locations of the human traffickers.

Boats run by migrant smugglers and human trafficking gangs in the fertile crescent, and predominantly Libya, have increased in the previous months, attempting to sail to places like Italy to run from poverty and violence in their home countries. The nature of the escape makes it very unsafe: rowdy and fearful migrants from differing backgrounds are packed into small, sometimes precariously old boats, and sail across the Mediterranean Sea. Fights break out, or the boat breaks down, or an overcapacity boat capsizes due to excessive rocking from passengers, toppling the boat and leaving many stuck in the hull to drown.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that this year a total of 35,000 migrants have come to the EU’s shores so far, mostly to Italy and the rest to Greece. 1,600 are thought dead, nearly half of the 3,500 that died for the entire year of 2014. Last year about 218,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.

While the meeting was taking place, rescue boats were sent out from Italy and Malta after receiving distress calls from two different migrant boats. Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat noted in a statement that the survivors of the various incidents described horrible scenes of dozens and sometimes hundreds of people losing the struggle to stay afloat once the boats sank.

A busy boat terminal gives a feel for the action-packed fuel of boating environments: