STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The EU executive offered Italy more funding on Tuesday to help deal with Mediterranean migrants and said private rescue boats working off Libya should review their operations to avoid encouraging people to take to sea.
The European Commission announced 35 million euros ($40 million) in extra cash for Rome in response to Italian demands that its neighbours share more of the burden of handling thousands of people coming by boat every week. It also set out a list of other measures for EU ministers to discuss on Thursday.
Among the proposals was that Italy draft a code of conduct for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) running rescue services off Libya.
Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s deputy head, told reporters after the commissioners’ weekly meeting, that this was in part because their activities might be a “pull factor” — encouraging people to risk their lives in flimsy dinghies in the hope of being picked up and then ferried over to Italy.
The Commission plan calls for beefing up Libya’s coastal rescue services — something Europeans hope may curb the number of people picked up close to shore by international charities.
Despite criticism of abuses by coastguards employed by Libya’s shaky, U.N.-backed government, European officials argue that better local rescue services would mean more migrants being taken back to Libya or perhaps