Over 700 migrants rescued from seas near Sicily and Lampedusa as EU leaders meet

 

More than 700 migrants have been rescued from waters near Sicily in less than 24 hours, according to the Italian coastguard.

The stream of smugglers' boats aiming for European shores continues despite renewed pledges by European leaders to manage illegal migration.

The coastguard said it received satellite phone requests to aid five boats crowded with 705 migrants near Sicily.

All were rescued except for one migrant who reportedly fell into the sea during rescue operations by a Maltese cargo ship. The coastguard says a search was launched.

Thousands of migrants try to reach Italian shores by sea each year. Some 365 drowned in an October 3 capsizing near Lampedusa, an Italian island.

The rescue came as European Union leaders failed to take new action to ease the plight of thousands of boat refugees trying to cross from North Africa.

After the Lampedusa tragedy, EU officials set up a taskforce seeking to improve the system of maritime border patrols. The European Commission also mobilised a few additional funds for Lampedusa, but the latest migrant arrivals underscored that the problem persisted unchanged.

"We had a long discussion on refugee policies following the horrible events in the Mediterranean and on the island of Lampedusa," German chancellor Angela Merkel said after the Brussels summit of EU leaders.

"We all have expressed that we are deeply troubled over the events that we had to witness off Lampedusa."

Italy, Malta, Greece and Spain - the main gateways for refugees from the south - had pushed for the topic to be put on the meeting's agenda in the hopes of achieving better burden-sharing, but the talks yielded neither concessions from northern Europeans nor more funding for EU border patrol agency Frontex.

Germany and others pointed out that they already receive significantly more asylum applications per capita than Italy and other southern countries.

Thousands of migrants reach Italy's shores every year, but they often use the country only as a transit point. Germany received about 80,000 asylum applications last year, while Italy registered 16,000, according to EU statistics.

In their concluding statement, the leaders said they expect to discuss the findings of the new migration taskforce at their next summit in December.

They also stressed "the importance of addressing root causes of migration flows by enhancing co-operation with the countries of origin and transit, including through appropriate EU development support and an effective return policy".

Human rights groups condemned the EU's inaction.

It "painfully shows that the expressions of sadness and solidarity were nothing more than crocodile tears", Amnesty International official Nicolas Beger said.

"Europe's priority clearly is not to save lives or to protect people along the borders. Instead it is to prevent people from arriving in Europe at all costs, even if those people are in need of safety and protection," he added.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before