Tripling of funding for maritime operations welcomed, questions remain

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Italy / boat people / Refugees and migrants rescued at sea by the Italian Coastguard ship Bettica arrive at Port Augusta. On the boat are four separate groups of people who were rescued. Many are women and children. / UNHCR / F. Malavolta / April 22, 2015

The European Union has tripled the funding for joint maritime operations following an emergency summit on migration, a move welcomed by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Hundreds of people have died crossing the Mediterranean in recent days on unseaworthy boats operated by people smugglers, bringing the number of deaths this year alone to 1,700.

Stephanie Coutrix reports.

This month's incidents on the Mediterranean are symptoms of what has been described by UNHCR as "an enormous and intensifying tragedy" that is playing out on Europe's southern frontiers.

The agency's spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, said measures announced in Luxembourg and Brussels this week are important as a first step towards collective European action.

“We welcome the tripling of funding for joint maritime operations. Regarding other measures that have been announced this week, there clearly needs to be further elaboration of what these will mean for resettlement and relocation, and facilitating of access to international protection in Europe through other legal channels.”

Meanwhile, UN independent human rights experts on migrants and trafficking in persons also reacted to the announcement made at the end of the emergency European Union summit on migrants.

They said the tripling of the budget to save lives is a step in the right direction, but this budget might prove insufficient in responding to the increasing numbers of migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat.

They also stressed that the decision made by EU leaders overwhelmingly continues to focus on securing borders, and what happens to migrants once their lives are saved still needs to be addressed.

Stephanie Coutrix, United Nations.

Duration: 1’18″

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