The EU attacked member states Thursday for not doing enough to halt the flow of migrants to its southern shores, saying regret at the latest deaths was no substitute for action.
“Migration is not a popular or pretty topic. It is easy to cry in front of your TV set when witnessing these tragedies. It is harder to stand up and take responsibility,” top EU officials said in a statement.
“What we need now is the collective courage to follow through with concrete action on words that will otherwise ring empty,” said the statement issued by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini and Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avrampoulos.
The comments followed the latest disaster in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned after their rickety fishing boat sank off the Libya coast on Wednesday as they tried to cross the Mediterranean.
The boat was believed to have been carrying more than 600 people when it ran into difficulties.
More than 2,000 people have died at sea so far this year while nearly 190,000 have had to be rescued as they made the crossing.
Italy, Greece and Malta have borne the brunt of the influx and Rome has led demands that its EU partners do more to share the burden.
In April, after an even worse disaster estimated to have cost 800 migrant lives, the 28 European Union leaders agreed to take urgent action — to step up rescue efforts at sea and to try and halt the problem at source, including the use of limited military action against people traffickers in Libya.
The bloc failed however to agree last month on how to distribute 40,000 mostly Syrian and Eritrean migrants from overstretched Italy and Greece.
Member states offered to take in take some 32,000 plus another 22,500 Syrian asylum seekers currently in camps outside the EU.
Given the numbers involved and the scale of upheaval across North Africa and the Middle East, many believe the problem dwarfs such measures.
In their statement, the three EU officials said despite the bloc's efforts, “it is not enough and will never be enough to prevent all tragedies”.
“There is no simple, nor single, answer to the challenges posed by migration… nor can any member state effectively address migration alone. It is clear that we need a new, more European approach.”