Mogherini says EU has 'no more excuses' on migrants

AFP , Monday 20 Apr 2015

European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini
European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Luxembourg on Monday, April 20, 2015 (Photo: AP)

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said Monday the bloc had "no more excuses" not to act after the latest migrant disaster in the Mediterranean and 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," Mogherini said.

"We need immediate action from the EU and the member states," she said as she arrived for an emergency meeting of foreign and interior ministers following the weekend loss of a ship with some 700 migrants on board.

She said that just as the Islamist attacks in Paris in January had generated a common response, so this incident should give momentum to finding a common migration policy.

"The main issue here is to build a common sense of European responsibility, knowing that there is no easy solution," she added.

Mogherini was touching on sensitive ground but she is a former Italian foreign minister and her country has borne the brunt of the latest exodus.

Some 11,000 migrants have been rescued since the middle of last week alone and current trends suggest last year's total of 170,000 landing in Italy is likely to be exceeded in 2015.

The issue of who handles the migrants -- for asylum or repatriation -- is hugely sensitive, with Italy complaining its EU partners are not doing enough.

It scaled back its Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation at the end of last year in protest at the rising cost and it was replaced by a smaller EU-led mission called Triton.

The recent flood of migrants and the loss of life has put that decision in doubt but some EU member states, especially those not directly affected, are reluctant to do more.

The EU foreign and interior ministers will meet from 1300 GMT.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos will also attend the talks since migration is in his portfolio, not the foreign affairs brief.

"Concrete actions on #migrationEU will be taken," Avramopoulos said in a tweeted message.

The foreign ministers on their own had been due to discuss the situation in war-torn Libya, now a major transit point for people from all over Africa and the Middle East trying to get to Europe.

Exploited by ruthless people smugglers, thousands take to the sea in rickety boats at the mercy of the elements and prone to capsize, sparking a humanitarian crisis on Europe's southern shores.

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