Danish politicians are reluctant to get involved following the sinking of a boat that led to at least 700 people drowning in the Mediterranean over the weekend.
The passengers, including many women and children, perished in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya. The Italian coastguard said that less than 30 people have been rescued, and some of those survivors say as many as 950 people may have been aboard.
The overcrowded fishing boat most likely capsized as a result of passengers rushing to one side in an attempt to get off the sinking craft. If the numbers of dead are confirmed, it would take the death toll of drowned migrants since the start of this year to more than 1,600.
EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the disaster at a previously scheduled meeting in Luxembourg later today. EU president Donald Tusk was considering holding a special summit on the crisis, his spokesman said.
While member states like Spain, Greece, Germany and France urged immediate action, some Danish politicians seemed reluctant to have Denmark jump aboard.
Former Konservative party head Lars Barfoed said Denmark should not act unilaterally to help the migrants.
“We were aware of the problems before this terrible accident happened, and it doesn’t really change anything,” Barfoed told MetroXpress. “This does not mean that we should do anything differently.”
DF spokesperson Søren Espersen said that any Danish help would have strings attached.
“We support the idea of Danish ships assisting, but the conditions must include that some of the refugees are sent back,” said Espersen. “We have to make arrangements with the north African countries, or this will never stop.”
Amnesty International deemed the disaster “man-made” and called for the resumption of a major Italian search-and-rescue operation that was suspended at the end of last year after some of Italy’s EU partners refused to help fund the mission, which they said was encouraging migrants to attempt the dangerous crossing. That operation was replaced by a much smaller EU effort.
Martin Lidegaard, the foreign minister, said that Italy needed support.
“Italy has sounded an alarm that I believe we should pay attention to,” said Lidegaard. “It is important that the EU realises that Italy will need help for much longer than just today.”
Numbers of refugees growing
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the disaster and encouraged governments worldwide to offer asylum to “people worldwide fleeing war who need refuge and safe haven”.
The latest disaster comes after a week in which two other migrant shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead
Trends indicate that last year’s total of 170,000 migrants landing in Italy is likely to be exceeded in 2015.