The Italian Coast Guard has rescued around 600 refugees from a fishing boat that was in distress. EPP boss Manfred Weber calls for a reaction from the European Union to change escape routes.
The migrants had apparently tried to get to Italy on a fishing boat. As the Italian news agency ANSA reports, the overloaded boat got into distress in the Maltese search and rescue zone about 170 miles off Sicily. The Italian Coast Guard recovered the approximately 600 migrants and handed them over to other ships that supported the operation.
According to reports, 100 of those rescued were taken to the port of Catania on a ship belonging to the European border protection agency Frontex. 200 more are to arrive there later. The remaining 300 people are on board a Navy ship en route to the Sicilian port of Augusta.
State of Emergency in Italy
According to the Italian Interior Ministry, more than 32,700 migrants have already arrived in Italy by sea this year. Many dare to cross from North Africa to Europe on unseaworthy boats, which is why there are always accidents with many deaths.
Because of the large number of migrants who recently reached Italy, the government in Rome declared a state of emergency a few days ago in order to provide money for accommodation, for example, to particularly affected regions in the south.
EPP boss calls for refugee pact
In view of the increasing number of refugees on the Mediterranean route, the head of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, is calling for negotiations, to begin with Tunisia on a refugee pact modeled on the Turkey agreement. The EPP wants to request a debate in the European Parliament, reports the “Bild” newspaper.
“The EU is sleepwalking into a new migration crisis, although the rapidly increasing migration pressure is obvious. In the first three months of this year, over 300 percent more migrants arrived in Italy than in the previous year,” the CSU politician told the tabloid. The EPP boss called for more European solidarity: “Italy has already declared a state of emergency – and the other EU countries are looking the other way. We must not leave Italy alone,” said Weber.
Escape routes change
The background to the debate is a report by the EU border protection agency Frontex for the EU Commission. Accordingly, the increase in the number of refugees could mean that the previous year’s number of migrants of 330,000 will be reached this summer. According to the report, Tunisia has now replaced Libya as the main transfer country: 57 percent of the migrants arriving in Italy boarded the smuggler boats there.
That’s why European politician Weber wants the EU to negotiate a migration pact with Tunisia. Similar to the Turkey agreement, the gangs of people smugglers must be stopped together, Weber warned. According to Weber, border protection and controls as well as the rejection of illegal migrants should finally work.