Source AP ©

EU acknowledges efforts to deal with illegal migrants crossing Mediterranean do not work

The European Union acknowledged efforts to deal with illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean were not working.

"Cooperation isn't yet working," said EU spokesman Friso Roscam Abbing. "It's quite a difficult situation."

Roscam Abbing was commenting on reports that 27 migrants held on for three days to a tuna pen towed by a Maltese trawler after their boat sank before they were eventually rescued.

The Italian coast guard in Lampedusa, a small fishing island south of Sicily, said that on Sunday morning they rescued 27 people, including seven women, who had been holding on for three days to a tuna fishing pen after their boat sank.

Coast guard officials confirmed the Maltese trawler that was towing the nets had refused to take the immigrants aboard and said the captain was being investigated by Italian and Maltese authorities for failing to rescue the group.

Roscam Abbing said the EU would also investigate the incident and other recent reports where stricken migrants were either not picked up by passing European boats, or refused entry to ports after they had been rescued by overcrowded vessels.

He told reporters EU authorities were "first going to analyze the situation to see why coordination didn't work well, as it manifestly didn't."

Although most of the migrants were exhausted and dehydrated their condition was relatively good and they were brought to a holding center on Lampedusa, the Italian coast guard said.

In a frontpage story headlined "Europe's Shame" the British daily The Independent on Saturday said the skipper of the Maltese boat refused to take the migrants on board through fear of becoming entangled in a diplomatic wrangle that would endanger his cargo of tuna. The report also said Libya failed to respond to calls to help the migrants.

Roscam Abbig recalled that skippers had an obligation to rescue those in danger at sea.

"No captain of any vessel can avoid the obligation to save people's lives, that is quite clear for the countries concerned," Roscam Abbing said. "That's a very clear moral obligation, and that's also a legal obligation."

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