EU to China: Curb sale of boats used for migrants

A rescue mission near the Libyan coast last month in which all 134 migrants on board were saved. Traffickers have been packing more people onto flimsy inflatable dinghies and setting them adrift at sea.
A rescue mission near the Libyan coast last month in which all 134 migrants on board were saved. Traffickers have been packing more people onto flimsy inflatable dinghies and setting them adrift at sea.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • A senior European Union envoy has urged China to restrict the sale of inflatable dinghies that he said are used by trafficking gangs to carry migrants on treacherous sea journeys to Europe.

About 1.4 million refugees and migrants have made their way to Europe since 2015, many fleeing Syria's bloody civil war.

Thousands have died, often while trying to cross the Aegean and Mediterranean seas in flimsy rubber boats.

"China can help and support the EU in its fight against migrant smugglers," Mr Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said at a press conference after meeting China's Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun.

"The rubber boats used by smuggler networks in the Mediterranean are fabricated somewhere in China," he said, adding that after export, the dinghies were falling into the hands of smuggling networks.

Last year, Italian coast guard vessels recovered more than a thousand of such crafts, each with an average of 122 passengers.

So far this year, more than 1,000 migrants are thought to have died in waters between Libya and Italy, according to the International Organisation for Migration, while nearly 37,000 have been rescued and taken to Italy.

Mr Avramopoulos said he had begun talks with China aimed at helping to fight the smuggling networks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'EU to China: Curb sale of boats used for migrants'. Print Edition | Subscribe