Interior ministers from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Switzerland, along with EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, are in Rome on Monday to discuss strategies for curbing the number of migrants coming to Europe with their North African counterparts from Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.
Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti wants to form a permanent “contact group” between European and North African countries that addresses migration issues. Following the closure of the so-called Balkan route and an EU deal with Turkey, more migrants have attempted the hazardous route from North Africa across the Mediterranean towards Italy.
Thousands of people have drowned in the Mediterranean during their attempt to make it to Europe in small vessels unfit for the high seas.
The Italian news agency Ansa reported on Sunday that a total of 3,315 people had been rescued from the Mediterranean in 25 separate operations over 24 hours.
“After some calm days, migrants are arriving in large numbers, taking advantage of a window of favourable weather,” a coastguard official said.
The French-German “SOS Mediterranee” initiative reported on its website that it had picked up a thousand migrants, including almost 200 children, from nine boats.
The UN migration agency IOM has reported that in 2016 a record number of 5,000 migrants died at sea or were killed and thousands more were abused. Some 16,000 migrants have already arrived in Italy since the start of the year. That is a rise of about 5,000 compared to the same period last year. Some 520 people are known to have died.
The Italian island of Lampedusa lies 296 kilometers (184 miles, 160 nautical miles) north of Tripoli. Since longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed in 2011, authorities have struggled to control Libya’s long coastline, leaving sections in the hands of human traffickers.
Kwame Appiah with DW report