Italy to launch sea mission to prevent migrant deaths
ROME — Italy's government was set to meet Monday to finalize details on a new humanitarian military operation aimed at preventing the deaths of North African migrants attempting to sail to Europe's shores.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta is to meet with, among others, Defence Minister Mario Mauro and Foreign Minister Emma Bonino ahead of the air and naval mission's launch later Monday or Tuesday.
Letta said that the number of troops deployed to the Strait of Sicily would be tripled to serve the new mission, called "Safe Sea."
Three navy ships, four helicopters and two planes equipped with night vision technology are being deployed to the area, Mauro told the daily Avvenire at the weekend.
Three deadly accidents occurred in the past two weeks in the Strait of Sicily.
On Monday, rescuers found more victims of an October 3 shipwreck off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, raising to 364 the death toll in that incident.
Dozens more died in shipwreck that took place Friday about 80 nautical miles south-west of Malta and 60 nautical miles south-east of Lampedusa.
Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Monday that Libya must be part of the solution if the European Union is to find a way of reducing migration by way of the Mediterranean.
"Stability in Libya remains vital and we will work together to ensure stability there. No stability in Libya means no security in the Mediterranean," he said.
Muscat had met with his Libyan counterpart Ali Zeidan in Tripoli on Sunday to discuss ways in which the EU could help Libya stem the flow of Europe-bound migrants, for example, by training its security forces and giving it access to the bloc's satellite systems.
Muscat also said Europe needs a concrete plan how to tackle the immigration issue, but that so far little had been accomplished.
"We have been abandoned by Europe. We not only need money, but a plan. And although no reassuring signs have come our way, we will work hard to ensure that Europe wakes up," he said.
Letta is set to discuss the crisis when the EU holds a two-day summit October 24-25 amid proposals for vastly expanded patrol operations by Frontex, the EU's border agency.
The first of the recent tragedies took place off Sicily on September 30 when 13 migrants drowned near Sampieri beach in Scicli on the south-eastern tip of the island.
Meanwhile, a migrant boat from Tunisia carrying 137 people, including 22 women, safely docked in Lampedusa on Monday.