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Italy urges EU to combat '21st-century slave drivers' ahead of summit on migrant crisis

EU-funded refugee camps in Niger and military action against smugglers could help solve the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, the Italian premier says. EU leaders are to discuss a "comprehensive" policy on Thursday.

The EU must take concrete steps to combat migrant trafficking at its source, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Wednesday after observing a one-minute silence in memory of the victims.

Addressing the lower house of parliament, Renzi said the EU should have a more visible role in sub-Saharan countries where migrants originate. He offered four proposals, including UN-backed military action against human traffickers.

Renzi added that a comprehensive European policy on migrants needed to be crafted quickly. Setting up EU-funded refugee camps in Niger, Sudan and elsewhere in Africa to curb "21st-century slave drivers" of migrants should be considered, Renzi said during his speech to Italian lawmakers.

"We are asking Europe to be Europe, not just when it's time to devise a budget," Renzi said, adding, "I am very optimistic about the fact that the EU can finally step up" to the challenge.

'Military intervention' on the table

Human traffickers must be targeted by military action, Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti told Sky TG24 in an interview as Renzi addressed parliament.

"We know where the smugglers keep their boats, where they gather… The plans for military intervention are there," Pinotti said.

Flüchtlinge im Mittelmeer vor Lampedusa

Migrants from war-torn countries continue to cross the Mediterranean despite the perilous journey

The crisis in the Mediterranean quickly deteriorated last weekend after a boat loaded with migrants capsized, many locked in the hold by smugglers. More than 800 migrants are believed to have died in the disaster.

"We think it's the moment in which Europe decides, forcefully, to have an international police operation, which will undo this band of criminals," Pinotti noted one day ahead of an emergency EU summit tasked with addressing the humanitarian crisis on the Mediterranean.

Devising a comprehensive plan

The EU devised a 10-point plan on Monday to prevent disasters in the future, including offering more money to patrolling operations in the Mediterranean. The plan would also formulate a system to capture and destroy vessels used by human traffickers.

European leaders are expected to approve the plan in Brussels on Thursday.

ls/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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