Under-pressure EU mulls emergency summit after worst migrant tragedy

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM- EU president Donald Tusk was considering Sunday an emergency summit on illegal immigration, as European leaders called for action after more than 700 were feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean's deadliest migrant disaster yet.
EU Council President Tusk said on Twitter he had spoken to Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and "will continue talks w/ EU leaders, Commission & EEAS on how to alleviate situation".

He would make a decision on calling a possible summit after holding these consultations, Tusk's spokesman Preben Aamann told AFP.
More than 700 people were feared to have drowned Sunday after an overcrowded boat smuggling them to Europe capsized off Libya, the latest in a series of high-seas tragedies following a recent spike in the number of migrants attempting to reach Europe.
French President Francois Hollande said if the toll was confirmed, it would be "the worst catastrophe" in the Mediterranean in recent years.
Italy, whose coast guard was coordinating the search for survivors and bodies, led the calls Sunday for an emergency summit of EU leaders, with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saying Rome was working "to ensure this meeting can be held by the end of the week".
"It has to be a priority," he said.
As anger grew among aid groups over what Amnesty International described as a predictable "man-made" tragedy, EU foreign ministers would focus on the crisis at a meeting in Luxemburg on Monday.
EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was due Monday in Spain to visit the EU's two land borders with Africa -- Ceuta and Mellila -- said he was cancelling the trip in order to attend the foreign ministers' meeting.
"The latest tragedy in the Mediterranean is a stark reminder that we need to take bold actions to deal with the growing migration crisis," he said in a statement.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also voiced support for an EU summit on the issue and urged the bloc to do more to prevent further loss of life at sea.
"We have suffered similar tragedies in our country and we know that there is no country in the world, no matter how strong or how many resources it has, that can tackle on its own these events," he told a rally in the Mediterranean city of Alicante.
Germany's vice chancellor likewise raised the alarm.
"All European police and border authorities must make every possible effort to fight the criminal trafficking gangs who profit from human misery," said Sigmar Gabriel.
"We need an international operation against people smugglers."
Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras urged Europe to boost search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean.
He also pleaded for "diplomatic initiatives" to help resolve the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya which have pushed many to flee to Europe.

Monday, April 20th 2015

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