Italian govt meets on mission to stop migrant disasters
Navy says its ready, with over 500 feared dead in two wrecks14 October, 11:44
'We are ready to play our part,' said Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero.
'The chief of staff has already provided for the measures already in force to be boosted after last Friday.
'Right now the patrol vessel Libra, the frigate Espero and the corvette Chimera are patrolling the sea, with a helicopter and pilot and the San Marco regiment on board'.
The official death toll from a migrant-boat disaster on Friday is 38 after the body of a three-year-old child was recovered, but 150-250 more may be be missing after a boat thought to be carrying over 400 people capsized between the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and Malta.
There were 212 survivors.
On Sunday six bodies were recovered from the October 3 boat wreck off Lampedusa, raising the death toll from that disaster to 364. Nevertheless, more boats packed with refugees with nothing to lose continue to arrive in Lampedusa, the main port of entry into Europe for migrants smuggled by boat from Libya or Tunisia.
The government is organising the new 'safe sea' mission independently in response to the migrant crisis.
But it is also calling on the European Union to provide more assistance, stressing that Lampedusa is the border of the whole continent, not just of Italy. Letta said he will make the case for more assistance at a summit of EU leaders October 24-25. 'Everything should be ready between Monday and Tuesday (for the safe sea mission). It will be an all-Italian initiative which will be in addition to existing European initiatives like Frontex,' said Defence Minister Mario Mauro.
'We want Europe to understand clearly that we want a voice in the matter - we don't want to disengage, we want to be more involved. 'This way we will be able to ask the EU to do the same'.
The minister added that the objective is to 'boost three-fold our presence with men and means in the southern area of the Mediterranean for a military-humanitarian mission with the aim of containing the current crisis which is partly due to the 'non-state' situation of Libya'.
Mauro admitted the cost of the operation has not been estimated yet and that talks are focusing on avoiding 'an excessive expenditure and to provide for the necessary (financial) coverage'. 'The problem is not how much it costs - it is necessary to do it to confront the ongoing humanitarian emergency,' the minister said.