EU seeks migrant sea patrols

The European Commission has called for the EU to launch Mediterranean-wide search and rescue patrols to intercept migrant boats.

Lampedusa wreck: EU seeks Mediterranean migrant sea patrols

The European Commission has called for the EU to launch Mediterranean-wide search and rescue patrols to intercept migrant boats.

The move by Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem was prompted by the deaths of at least 274 migrants whose boat sank off Italy’s Lampedusa island.

She said this was a moment to show real European solidarity beyond words.

The alleged skipper of the Lampedusa boat, a Tunisian man, is being held in Sicily, suspected of manslaughter.

Ms Malmstroem told reporters after the meeting she had asked ministers from the 28 member states to allow a major operation by the EU’s Frontex border agency “covering the whole Mediterranean, from Cyprus to Spain”.

First reactions from EU member states were encouraging, she said.

“We will ask Frontex to make a concrete proposal and come back to us,” she said.

Frontex is currently helping Italy to intercept migrant boats, but the two EU operations in the southern Mediterranean have limited resources – a total of four ships, two helicopters and two planes.

The search and rescue patrols would “help better tracking, identification and rescue of boats, especially migrants’ boats”, the commissioner’s spokesman Michele Cercone said.

“It could help prevent tragedies like the one in Lampedusa,” he added.

The search for bodies from the boat that sank on Thursday off Lampedusa, between Sicily and Africa, continued throughout Tuesday.

Divers, who have already recovered dozens of bodies, brought up another 42, bringing the total number to 274. One of those brought to the surface was a child.

Many of the 500 people who were on board are still missing. The victims were mostly from Eritrea and Somalia.

The alleged captain of the ship, Khaled Bensalam, 35, is in custody in Agrigento, Sicily. Investigators suspect him of being responsible for the sinking and he could face multiple counts of manslaughter, though no charges have yet been laid, the BBC’s Rome office was told.

Until his arrest, he was with other survivors of the shipwreck at the reception centre in Lampedusa, Italian media report.

It is thought that other than the skipper, there was only one crewman aboard, and that he did not survive.

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Source: BBC.

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