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EU's Mediterranean leaders meet as migrant numbers rise

September 29, 2023

The summit comes as Europe struggles to agree on handling asylum seekers and irregular migrants. Countries in the Mediterranean region want more help dealing with thousands of people who reach their shores.

Crew members of the Geo Barents migrant rescue ship, operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), distribute life jackets to a group of 61 migrants on a wooden boat during a rescue operation
The Central Mediterranean, the world's deadliest sea crossing for migrantsImage: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

The leaders from nine Mediterranean and southern European countries met Friday in Malta to discuss migration with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The meeting came a day after the EU failed to agree on changes to the bloc's migration laws.

Some 186,000 people have already arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea between January and September 24 of this year, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

Of this, 130,000 have arrived in Italy, an 83% increase compared to last year.

Thousands of migrants arrive on Lampedusa

Disagreements over solutions to migrant crisis

The continuous arrival of boats has put political pressure on the group, which includes Malta, France, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

But even among the nine countries, there are disagreements on how to deal with the crisis.

Von der Leyen would hold a separate meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the Malta summit.

They will discuss a plan which includes the possible expansion of naval missions in the Mediterranean.

Deadly Mediterranean route

Separately, the UN's children's agency, UNICEF, warned that  at least 990 people died or went missing in the dangerous central Mediterranean route between northern Africa and Europe,

That was three times the number 334, recorded in the same period last year.

The agency said 11,600 unaccompanied minors had been among the migrants trying to get to Italy on makeshift vessels between January and September.

lo/jcg (AP, AFP)