EU ministers are to discuss plans to tackle the growing crisis of Mediterranean migrants risking their lives to come to Europe, but Italy is warning of a strong response if no solution is found.
European leaders widely acknowledge that solutions must be found to tackle the growing problem of the Mediterranean migrant crisis. But ministers are yet to come to an agreement on what measures should be introduced to tackle the crisis.
Around 1,800 migrants have died this year alone trying to cross the Mediterranean. More than 900 migrants died in April alone making the perilous journey.
Rescue efforts have been underway in recent months, with naval vessels, including from the UK, saving thousands at risk of drowning. Despite this, the distribution of migrants and plans to act against smugglers are yet to be agreed.
In the face of increasingly stretched resources, Italy has warned that if measures are not agreed upon, it will resort to “plan B” that will “hurt Europe”.
Italian authorities are thought to be considering issuing visas that will enable migrants to travel beyond its own boundaries.
Speaking to Italy’s Corriere della Sera, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said, “If the European Council chooses solidarity, then good. If it doesn’t we have a Plan B ready but that would be a wound inflicted on Europe.”
Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May has already ruled out the possibility of Britain taking migrants in from the Mediterranean, saying that Britain should not be seen to do anything to encourage migrants to make the journeys.
Proposals have also been put forward to use military sanctions against people smugglers who are risking the lives of migrants attempting to flee war-torn countries such as Libya.
These measures would include using force to destroy the boats being used by people smugglers, but both Russia and Libya have expressed reservations, making the prospect of the required UN resolution authorising the use of force very difficult.
A study had previously suggested that 22,000 migrants died trying to reach Europe in the last 14 years, with climate change and extreme weather events becoming a more relevant factor in forcing people to flee their home countries.