EU foreign and interior ministers are due to meet in Luxembourg to discuss the deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa. The meeting EU officials from 28 countries comes as reports in Italy suggested the death toll from the weekend capsizing of a fishing vessel packed with migrants could reach 950 – an increase on the 700 deaths reported on Sunday – and as a migrant boat ran aground off a Greek island in a separate incident on Monday. The interior ministers are to join their countries’ top diplomats on Monday afternoon in what will be a routine meeting of EU foreign ministers but which has been transformed into a crisis session amid a clamor for action to stem the loss of life in the Mediterranean.
Some southern European nations say the EU’s credibility is now at stake after last year’s decision to scale back search and rescue efforts. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini demanded immediate action. “With this latest tragedy … we have no more excuses, the EU has no more excuses, the member states have no more excuses,” she said. “The main issue here is to build a common sense of European responsibility, knowing that there is no easy solution.”
In the latest tragedy, hundreds are believed to have drowned after their boat sank off Libya at the weekend. The UN says the North Africa-Italy route has become the world’s deadliest. The 20m (70ft) boat was believed to be carrying up to 700 migrants, and only 28 survivors have been rescued. A boat carrying coffins of the 24 victims found so far has just arrived in Malta, the Italian coastguard says. Another vessel carrying dozens of migrants has run aground off the coast of the Greek island of Rhodes, killing at least three people, the Greek coastguard has said.