EU Presidency 'deeply concerned' over huge migrant death toll

Latvia's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which runs until the end of June, released a statement Monday expressing its desire to respond to the fact that hundreds of migrants are dying during their desperate efforts to start a new life in the EU.

The statement follows appalling scenes over the weekend with reports suggesting around 700 illegal migrants had drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

"The Presidency is deeply concerned by the developments in the Mediterranean. The situation needs to be addressed by tackling it at its roots. The Presidency welcomes the joint meeting of EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Ministers for Home Affairs taking place in the afternoon of 20 April," the statement released via the Latvian Foreign Ministry said.

"It is clear that, as long as there is instability in our neighborhood, people will continue to seek a safe haven. There are human lives at risk and the European Union together with regional and global partners has a humanitarian obligation to act. What is needed is speedy action to prevent further loss of life," the statement continued.

The Presidency also said: "As long as countries of origin and transit do not attempt to prevent inappropriate boats from departure, people will continue to put their lives at risk. A large part of our work should be dedicated to working with third countries."

Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said: “I would like to request the Commission to swiftly propose additional means that could be allocated... to come up with proposals in close cooperation with appropriate EU agencies to step up efforts in the fight against human smuggling. Additional resources should also be allocated to countries receiving migrants and options should be explored for setting up a full-fledged search and rescue operation of the EU.”

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