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Migrant deaths at sea may shame Europe over humanitarian disaster
The outrage Europe's leaders face over the deaths of hundreds of refugees trying to reach its shores may force a shift in a policy critics decry as letting people drown to deter others in desperate need. - photo by Lane Anderson
European foreign ministers met in Luxembourg Monday to respond to the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, as rescuers search for bodies from the latest and most deadly sinking.

Hundreds of migrants perished Sunday when a fishing boat from Libya bound for Italy capsized, prompting outcry from the international community.

The EU has received stinging criticism in the last few days, accused of letting desperate refugees drown, as they flee poverty, war and terrorism in less-fortunate countries on the other side of the Mediterranean, including Syria, Libya and Senegal.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that governments around the world must improve refugee rescues at sea, but also ensure the right to asylum for the growing governments number of people worldwide fleeing war who need refuge and safe haven.

Amnesty International called the disaster predictable and avoidable.

"The reputation of Europe is at stake," said Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni before Monday's meeting, the Los Angeles Times reported. "I have been saying for weeks and months that Europe has to do more. Now, unfortunately, the reality has hit us in the face.

European governments beset by anti-immigration parties now face outcry for "neglecting humanitarian disaster," according to Reuters.

"The EU may have the means to rescue the refugees fleeing the hell of Syria and Libya, but it is letting them drown," German jurist Heribert Prantl wrote in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung."Europe is using dead refugees to shield itself from the others. Europe has battened down the hatches."

According to The Guardian, Pope Francis has appealed for greater international support for Italy to cope with the growing crisis. After meeting with the new Italian president Sergio Mattarella, the pontiff said: It is evident that the proportions of the phenomenon demand much greater involvement," he said.

They are men and women like us our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war, the Pope said Sunday from St. Peters Square.

One survivor from Sundays capsized boat reported that 950 people were on board, according to Reuters, although a spokesman for the International Organization for Migrants put the figure lower.

"The boat was about 20 meters (65 feet) long, and we believe it would have taken more like 600 to 700," said Flavio Di Giacomo.

Regardless, the death count makes the incident one of the worst migrant boat sinkings in recent years. Between January and March of this year alone, over 10,000 migrants were reported to have arrived by sea in Italy.

About 200,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of 2014, with more than 10,000 in the past week alone, according to The Guardian. This years death toll has already reached over 900, compared with about 50 deaths in the same period last year when Italy's naval rescue mission operation Mare Nostrum was in effect. That program has since been replaced by an EU border patrol that's much less responsive and merely monitors incoming vessels within 30 miles of the Italian coast.
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