THE death toll of around 1,500 people who have perished attempting to cross the Mediterranean since the beginning of this year has pushed European governments to respond, and Spain has called for United Nations’ action.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo described the latest tragedy, the sinking of a vessel travelling from Libya with the loss of an estimated 700 lives, as a “horrendous spectacle.”
Libya is the setting-off point for many migrants who risk crossing the Mediterranean, and with that country in a state of severe crisis it has no functioning forces of law that can be relied upon to police its coastline.
“We cannot wait indefinitely for a government of national unity to be formed in Libya,” a Spanish diplomatic source told Spanish daily El Pais, adding that a UN mandate would be sufficient for action.
The newspaper goes on to report calls for the sinking of empty boats to prevent them being used to transport migrants, or the stationing of a European police or military force at key points in Libya.
In October last year, an Italian navy search and rescue operation called Mare Nostrum was replaced by a joint European force, Triton, which has just one third of the funding Mare Nostrum had.
European leaders will meet in Brussels tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss the crisis.