EU pledges more help to Italy to reduce migrant arrivals

October 19, 2017

Migrants wait to disembark from the Aquarius ship of Sos Mediterranee upon its arrival in the Sicilian port of Palermo, southern Italy, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. About 600 migrants have been brought to Sicily after being rescued at sea in one of the biggest arrivals since the Italian government struck a deal with Libyan authorities to limit departures. (Igor Petyx/ANSA via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has agreed to increase funding to help Italy keep migrants from arriving in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, European Council President Donald Tusk announced Thursday.

Tusk said members of the 28-member bloc will provide “sufficient finances” to Italy and that the European Commission will ensure the money goes to fighting “illegal migration.”

“We have a real chance of closing the Central Mediterranean route,” said Tusk, who leads the institution that comprises the heads of government of all EU member states.

After struggling for years with large numbers of migrants arriving on its shores, Italy managed to reduce the numbers in the last few months by sending naval units to Libya’s coast to help the local coast guard while making deals with Libyan militias to prevent migrants from leaving.

Aid workers, however, say a humanitarian catastrophe is brewing in Libya as migrants get trapped there in detention centers where they are mistreated.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel also said EU leaders agreed they need to do more to ensure that their measures in Africa take into account shifting migration routes. He said the discussion on migration focused on the need to “find a balance between solidarity and responsibility.”

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