Malta honours Mediterranean migrant boat victims

Memorial service held for 800 people who drowned at sea as EU convenes emergency summit to discuss escalating crisis.

    Twenty-four coffins containing the only bodies recovered from the Mediterranean's worst-ever migrant disaster have been laid out for a memorial service in Malta for the estimated 800 victims.

    Malta's president and prime minister, Italy's interior minister and the EU's migration commissioner were present for Thursday's service, which includes Christian and Muslim prayers.

    Only 28 people survived the capsizing of the migrant boat that departed from Libya last weekend. 

    The memorial service comes as European Union leaders are due to hold an emergency summit on ways to stem the number of migrants risking their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean.

    The leaders, who decided last year to halt the rescue of migrants, will vote to reverse their decision after a rapid escalation of deadly shipwrecks.

    The weekend incident raised the death toll to around 1,800 so far this year, compared to fewer than 100 who died before the end of April last year, when a similar number attempted the journey.


    RELATED: Stopping migrant boats Australia style


    Italy shut down the mission that saved the lives of more than 100,000 migrants last year because other EU countries refused to pay for it. It was replaced with a smaller EU scheme whose main focus is to patrol the bloc's borders, after countries argued that saving migrants encouraged more to come.

    The peak migration season of late spring and summer has barely begun, with international organisations estimating tens of thousands of African and Asian migrants likely to attempt the journey per month, mostly from Libya. Last year the death toll eventually reached 3,200.

    Libya: The gateway to a better life in Europe
    The leaders are likely to agree in Brussels to double the cash and equipment available to two EU border patrol missions in the Mediterranean, a senior EU diplomat told the Reuters news agency.

    Many EU countries still believe search and rescue operations alone will not solve the problem, and more must be done to fight traffickers, who have taken advantage of lawlessness in Libya to set up operations that spirited 170,000 migrants across the sea last year.

    One proposal the leaders will discuss is a military and civilian mission to capture and destroy the traffickers' boats.

    The leaders will also discuss a pilot project to resettle 5,000 to 10,000 refugees from Mediterranean countries to other EU states, the senior diplomat told Reuters. The United Nations estimates 36,000 have made the voyage so far this year.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    More than 300 people died in Somalia but some are asking why there was less news coverage and sympathy on social media.

    The life and death of Salman Rushdie, gentleman author

    The life and death of Salman Rushdie, gentleman author

    The man we call 'Salman Rushdie' today is not the brilliant author of the Satanic Verses, but a Picassoesque imposter.

    The Beirut Spy: Shula Cohen

    The Beirut Spy: Shula Cohen

    The story of Shula Cohen, aka The Pearl, who spied for the Israelis in Lebanon for 14 years.