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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas