Europe

Mediterranean migrant crisis: EU action 'not enough'

Mohammed Ali Malek in Catania court, Italy, on 24 April 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mohammed Ali Malek, the suspected captain of the capsized boat, appears in court

Human rights groups say measures by the EU to tackle the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean do not go far enough.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Save The Children have all called on Brussels to expand the area its ships will patrol.

They said unless EU rescue operations cover waters near Libya then migrants will continue to drown.

Meanwhile the alleged captain of a boat that sank off Libya on Sunday has appeared in court in Catania, Sicily.

Mohammed Ali Malek, a 27-year-old Tunisian, is accused of inadvertently ramming the overloaded fishing boat into a merchant ship that had come to rescue it, causing it to capsize.

He and another crew member, who has is also facing charges over the accident, were among 28 survivors of the 750 people on board.

Mr Malek denies charges of illegal confinement, culpable homicide, causing a shipwreck and aiding illegal immigration.

EU leaders agreed on Thursday to triple funding of its Triton search-and-rescue operation to some €120m (£86m) - taking it back to the spending levels of Mare Nostrum, an Italian-run operation that was cancelled last year.

Several EU members states have also promised more ships and other resources.

They also pledged to look at ways to capture and destroy smugglers' boats and deploy immigration officers to non-EU countries.

Amnesty International called the meeting in Brussels a "face-saving not a life-saving operation" and urged them to go the "extra mile" to avoid any more tragedy on its doorstep.

"It's not enough to increase EU boats at sea if they remain focused on protecting Europe's borders rather than the people at sea who are dying trying to get there," said Human Right Watch's Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

Save The Children said Europe needs to act "within hours to turn this momentum into lives saved at sea".

The UN refugee agency also urged the EU to "demonstrate moral and political leadership" in the dealing with the issue.

'Desperate to cross'

Britain and France, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, have agreed to seek a UN resolution to approve military action against smugglers' boats.

However, one smuggler, quoted by The Times newspaper, mocked the plans.

"We are not the problem," "Abu Ahmed", a 34-year-old Libyan, said.

"The migrants themselves are desperate to cross. Some of them, particularly the Syrians, have started buying their own boats and making the journey alone without help. You can't stop them.

"The coastline is nearly 2,000 km long. If you target one small section, people will find another patch of beach and more boats to launch. Tell me how they plan to patrol the whole of Libya and stop us?"

The number of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has risen sharply in recent months.

More than 35,000 are thought to have crossed from Africa to Europe this year and some 1,750 have died while attempting the journey.

Is military force the solution?

Deadly migrant routes explained

Special report: Europe's migrant crisis


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