BRUSSELS/ROME – European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to triple funding for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean where record numbers are drowning as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
The measure was announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel after an emergency EU summit in Brussels, called after up to 900 went down on a single boat on Sunday off the coast of Libya, a major staging point for migrants heading for Europe.
European Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc was going to look into how to seek and destroy vessels that could be used by smugglers, step up efforts to stop people reaching Libya, streamline visa and asylum processing, and returning failed asylum seekers to where they came from.
“We want to move quickly. So we will triple the financial resources for the relevant missions of Frontex, clearly improve them,” Merkel said, referring to the EU’s border agency.
“For Germany I can add: if it turns out that the funds are not sufficient we will have to talk about it again. Money should be no object here,.” she told a news conference.
Underlining global attention, the United Nations had criticized the European response so far and urged it to do more: “The European Union response needs to go beyond the present minimalist approach … which focuses primarily on stemming the arrival of migrants and refugees on its shores.”
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