17:22 Thursday 16th April 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: More than forty people have drowned in the latest sinking of a migrant boat between Libya and Italy. The Italian navy rescued four people. Almost 10,000 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean have been plucked from the sea in recent days. Earlier today the Italian Government made a plea to other European nations for help in providing more funds for operations to rescue migrants from drowning in the Med. After a major surge in the number of people attempting to make the crossing from North Africa, the European Union’s reply today has been that there is no silver bullet to deal with the problem of growing migrant flows. We can get more now from Brussels and our Europe correspondent Gavin Lee.
GAVIN LEE: Another day, and another rescue operation in the Mediterranean. The Italian Coastguard said 893 migrants have been rescued from overcrowded people-smuggling boars in the past twelve hours. The survivors are being brought to a port in Sicily, but at least 41 are missing, feared drowned. Every day since Friday around 1,000 people have been saved. The majority, who had set sail from the coast of Libya. This number according to aid agencies is unprecedented, (and they are) saying the conflict in North Africa and the Middle East as well as the warmer weather are playing a role. That the system is inadequate is a feeling universally acknowledged. Operation Trident with six ships, four planes and one helicopter, costing £2 million a month, is three times smaller than the previous search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum, which was run by the Italian military, and was activated after a similar tragedy in 2013, when 300 migrants drowned. The Italian Government asked for more financial help from the EU. Here in Brussels in the past hour the European Commission has responded, saying it has no silver bullet or any kind of panacea, adding there’s neither the money nor the political support to launch a European border guard system. But it urged member states to invest more. The question is how much money are the twenty eight member states willing to invest. Only twenty two of the member states are involved. Others including the UK opted out, describing the policy as unintentionally encouraging more migrants to attempt the crossing.
CHRIS MANN: Gavin Lee reporting.