The European Union is to launch military operations against the networks of smugglers in Libya deemed culpable of sending thousands of people to their deaths in the Mediterranean.

An emergency meeting of EU interior and foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, held in response to the reported deaths of several hundred migrants in a packed fishing trawler off the Libyan coast at the weekend, also decided to bolster maritime patrols in the Mediterranean and give their modest naval mission a broader search-and-rescue mandate for saving lives.

A summit of EU leaders is to take place in Brussels on Thursday to hammer out the details of the measures hurriedly agreed on Monday. The 28 EU governments called for much closer cooperation with Libya’s neighbours, such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Niger, in an attempt to close down the migratory routes. But senior political figures and EU officials conceded this would be difficult and also voiced scepticism about the emphasis on targeting the traffickers.

Following the reported deaths of around 1,300 migrants in three incidents in less than a fortnight in the waters south of Sicily, the pressure was on the EU and its member states to come up with new policies addressing headlines branding the incidents “Europe’s shame”.

“I hope today is the turning point in the European conscience, not to go back to promises without actions,” said Federica Mogherini, the former Italian foreign minister who is the EU’s chief foreign and security policy coordinator and who chaired Monday’s meeting… see more

source: Guardian UK