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Europe must do more to help migrants: UN chief

27 may 2015, 12:16
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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) shakes hands with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the European Council. ©AFP
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) shakes hands with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the European Council. ©AFP

 Europe must do more to help migrants crossing the Mediterranean, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday ahead of a visit to Brussels, as a planned EU naval operation awaits UN Security Council approval, AFP reports.

Europe "can provide more help," Ban said at a joint press conference in Dublin with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, calling for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea to be "further strengthened".

"I'm urging European leaders to address this issue in a more comprehensive way and a collective way," the United Nations secretary-general said, adding that any approach should also look at the "roots" of the problem in countries of origin.

"Without compassion you cannot do this. We have to first of all do our best to save lives."

EU ministers last week approved plans for a military operation to fight Mediterranean people smugglers, although proposals to destroy traffickers' boats in Libyan waters still need UN approval.

The European Commission has also unveiled plans to make the 28-nation EU share the burden of frontline states such as Italy, Greece and Malta, although some countries like Britain are opposed.

The Commission was to reveal the latest version of its plan, making EU nations more equitably absorb the migrants, at a news conference on Wednesday.

Meanwhile EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she hopes to discuss with Ban "the link between development, cooperation and migration".

"We always say that we have to tackle the root causes of the phenomenon," the former Italian foreign minister said.

She wants to examine how EU and African countries can "develop more possibilities for African citizens to face a better present and a better future".

So far this year, some 1,770 migrants have perished on the hazardous journey to Europe, according to the International Organisation for Migration, a 30-fold increase on the same period in 2014.

Speaking in Geneva, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said 7,000 people had been rescued from the Mediterranean in the first three days of this month.

European quotas to resettle 20,000 refugees within the EU were "wholly inadequate to the magnitude of this crisis," he said.

"I urge far greater emphasis on expanding channels for migration into Europe.

"Among these migrants are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. A more humane, less mean-spirited response to their plight would be more worthy of member states of the United Nations."


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