EU 'appalled' by migrant dead off Italy
ITALY [AFP]- The European Union's Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said Sunday she was "appalled" by a new report that migrants had died trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to Italy.
"I am appalled by these new tragedies at sea and I express my condolences to the victims and their families," she said in a statement, adding that she would meet with Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano on Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the latest developments.
Media reports said on Sunday that an Italian navy ship had approached a boat in difficulty and found 18 dead along with 73 survivors on board.
"I also thank the Italian authorities for the huge efforts put in place to assist and rescue thousands of migrants over the last days," she said.
Italy's navy, coast guard and merchant marine have rescued more than 3,500 people since Friday in the stretch of the Mediterranean between Sicily and the Libyan and Tunisian coasts.
Faced with the new crisis, Malmstroem again urged member states "to provide assistance to Mediterranean countries facing increased migratory and asylum pressure, in particular by resettling people from refugees' camps outside the EU".
Many of the migrants making the risky and often deadly journeys are refugees from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria, but there are also many arriving from across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 100,000 migrants have landed in Italy so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR -- far higher than the previous record of some 60,000 who arrived in 2011 at the height of the turmoil triggered by the Arab Spring revolutions.
Figures released at the end of July showed some 93,000 migrants had been rescued since the start of 2014.
The European Commission has said the refusal of member states to respond more favourably to asylum requests was fuelling the crisis.
It has suggested member states agree on creating humanitarian visas or deal with the requests at consulates in refugee camps and at points along migrants' journeys.