EU to triple funding for Mediterranean boat rescues

Published April 24th, 2015 - 09:43 GMT

EU leaders have agreed on Thursday to triple funding for search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea after up to 900 people lost their lives off the Libyan coast last weekend, said the German Chancellor Thursday.

Angela Merkel said after an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday: "We want to move quickly. So we will triple the financial resources for the relevant missions of Frontex, clearly improve them."

Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized European Union leaders for their decision last year to shut down the Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation, which saved the lives of around 140,000 migrants who were at risk of drowning last year. 

The EU now runs the limited operation Triton under the bloc’s Frontex border controls 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," Merkel said.

UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron offered on Thursday to send three military ships and three helicopters to "smash the gangs" smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

"Saving lives means rescuing these poor people but it also means smashing the gangs and stabilizing the region," Cameron told reporters in Brussels.

However, Cameron added that this would be done "under the right conditions and that must include people we pick up and people we deal with are taken to the nearest safe country and don’t have an immediate recourse to claim asylum in the UK."

European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters in Brussels on Thursday: "We need to crack down on the human smugglers, we have to break up their network and to undermine their business model."

"I think the best way to protect people from drowning is by ensuring that they do not get on the boat in the first place," Tusk added.

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