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Migrants a major challenge for EU

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 02:35

European leaders are being urged to come up with radical new solutions at an emergency summit on Thursday to deal with the devastating impact of wave after wave of migrants making their desperate bids to reach Europe's shores. But as David Pollard reports, coming up with answers might not be easy.

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UPSOUND ITALIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CALLING MINUTE'S SILENCE Italy's parliament pays its respects. A rare acknowledgement of the plight of migrants drowned at sea. For critics of the EU's reluctant response to the crisis, the silence has deafened. Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi says Europe needs to change tack - to be more human. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER, MATTEO RENZI, SAYING: "We want something that is different from a club of technical specialists that know all the principal geopolitical dynamics, but forget to give any reply at the moment of pain." With pictures like these hitting TV screens all over the world, EU ministers are talking up a 10-point action plan. Potentially, it'll double the size of a naval mission in the area. It replaced a larger - and costlier - rescue operation cancelled last year. Something's needed fast, according to humanitarian experts. Kevin Watkins is executive director of think tank, the Overseas Development Institute. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KEVIN WATKINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE, SAYING: ''It's scandalous that it's taken so long. That search and rescue programme was ended last November. In the past ten days, we've had over seventeen hundred deaths. It's frankly morally outrageous that European leaders have turned their back on this problem for so long.'' And then there are the traffickers. Middlemen like these Syrians allegedly profiting from their human cargo, arrested after their boat broke down with nearly 100 people aboard. Even the ODI is the first to admit the problem's complex. Wave after migrant wave in desperate flight - but some from poverty, while others from violence. The issues are muddled, with some in Europe's political community trying to profit, too, says Watkins. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KEVIN WATKINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE, SAYING: ''What we've seen is the xenophobe tail wagging the political main body dog, whether you look at the United Kingdom, France, Germany, many of the countries in eastern Europe. It's really only the southern European countries, in particular Italy, who are right in the front line, who are trying to provide some sort of leadership.'' But if some are calling to keep the migrants out, others say more should be let in. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KEVIN WATKINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE, SAYING: ''Europe has a demographic problem. We're getting older, we desperately need a younger workforce in areas like health care and other forms of service provision. So we actually need an increase in formal migration.'' Where there is agreement is that crisis in the Mediterranean is dramatic. An emergency EU summit is set for Thursday, called for by European Council President Donald Tusk. In his words, the situation 'can't continue like this.'

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Migrants a major challenge for EU

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 02:35