France: The Med cannot be an open-air cemetery

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France: The Med cannot be an open-air cemetery
France wants Europe to take action to prevent more tragedies like last week's ship wreck off Lampedusa. Photo:APF

France will press European leaders to take action to prevent tragedies like the shipwreck off the Italian coast that has left several hundred migrants dead, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.


"The Mediterranean cannot remain a huge open-air cemetery. Action must be taken," Fabius told Europe 1 radio, i-Tele and newspaper Le Monde in a televised appearance.

Fabius said President Francois Hollande wants the issue of border controls to be on the agenda for a European Council meeting of heads of state on October 24-25.

Italy has also called for European leaders to address the issue at the summit.

"It is very possible that the president will bring this issue to the agenda of the European Council," Fabius said.

"The heads of state must translate their outrage into action," he said, calling for increased funding for European migration bodies and stronger border controls.

Italy and France have already called for European interior ministers to hold talks on immigration at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

Divers on Sunday resumed their search for bodies after the shipwreck disaster off the remote Italian island of Lampedusa.

Over 120 bodies have so far been recovered from the boat that was carrying between 450 and 500 African asylum-seekers when it capsized Thursday off Lampedusa, the first entry point to Italy from north Africa.

It is feared that the final death toll could be closer to 300, which would make the accident the worst ever Mediterranean refugee tragedy after a previous one in 1996, also off Italian shores, claimed 283 lives.

Fabius said action needed to be taken to toughen penalties against people-smugglers and to boost the resources of Frontex, the European border control agency.

Noting that Frontex has an annual budget of only 50-60 million euros ($68-$81 million), Fabius said: "This is nothing at all in the context of the European budget.

"It really is an embarrassment. It is not enough to be outraged, we must back that up with resources," he said. "Everyone recognises that Frontex is not the size that it should be."




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