EU ‘at war with people smugglers’ says Commissioner Avramopoulos

European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopolous says EU now ‘at war with human smugglers’, says solutions must be found inside migrants’ countries of origin

Angelino Alfano, Dimitris Avramopolous, and Louis Grech
Angelino Alfano, Dimitris Avramopolous, and Louis Grech
'Shipwreck tragedy a punch in the stomach for the indifferent' - Italian deputy PM

The European Commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopolous said the European Union will “hunt down” human smugglers in the Mediterranean to bring them to justice.

“We cannot allow these criminals to continue exploiting human lives,” Avramopolous told a press conference at Auberge de Castille, ahead of an extraordinary EU summit to discuss a way forward on migration after some 650 unidentified migrants perished at sea in one of the deadliest shipwrecks ever.

“The EU is at war with human smugglers and we will hunt them down and destroy their capacities.  We will seize the smugglers’ boats, destroy them and bring the smugglers to justice.”

Avramopolous, flanked by Italian minister for the interior Angelino Alfano and deputy prime minister Louis Grech, insisted that European countries cannot tackle migration flows ‘alone and divided”, and that immediate remedies must be sought to prevent any further loss of life.

But he warned that migratory flows would not disappear anytime soon. “The EU must come up with structural and holistic solutions to the instability in the migrants’ countries of origin,” Avramopolous said. “Global migration won’t end, no matter how much money the EU pours into its policies.”

When asked, Avramopolous added that migration issues should play a key role in ongoing UN-brokered Libyan peace talks.

Louis Grech praised the EU for sending a “strong message” that it is willing to take action.

“Passiveness in the face of such tragedies is no longer an option,” Grech said, referring to two recent shipwrecks off the coast of Libya that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 migrants. “The EU must take charge.”

Deputy Italian Prime Minister Angelino Alfano described the recent tragedy as a “punch in the stomach” for those who are indifferent about the Mediterranean’s migration problems. He said that the EU has “finally woken up” and realized that the problem is a European one, and not just a southern European one.

Greek social solidarity minister Theano Fotiou warned that migration has become more problematic this year.

“Greece has already rescued 19,500 refugees this year, 120% more than we had rescued at this period last year,” she said. “The Greek government is facing an emergency problem and we must work immediately to re-transform the Mediterranean from a wet grave into a sea of culture and solidarity.”


‘5,000 migrant resettlement places only an indicative number

British newspaper The Guardian earlier claimed to have seen a confidential draft statement of a summit that will be held later today. According to the statement, the EU will only offer 5,000 refugees the chance to resettle across the EU.

When asked to comment on whether this figure was too low, Avramopolous said that the number of resettlement places that the EU will offer is by no means set in stone.

“5,000 is just an indicative number, and it might go up to 10,000 or down to 3,000 following today’s summit,” he said. “However, we are talking about a resettlement policy within Europe, a clear example of solidarity in practical terms.

“It’s not a question of numbers, but a question of policy.”

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