Italy urges EU summit to adopt immigrant action plan

ROME (AFP) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Tuesday urged an EU summit this week to adopt an action plan to deal with the "immigration emergency" after two shipwrecks that killed over 400 people.

Europe "cannot sit there and watch" these tragedies, Mr Letta told the Italian parliament, adding: "I am hoping for immediate action".

He called for the EU's Frontex border agency to be bolstered, the Eurosur patrol programme to be implemented sooner than its scheduled start date of December, along with the action plan.

Eurosur links different EU border patrol agencies and helps them communicate with each other and share satellite and surveillance drone data.

He also urged "dialogue with Mediterranean countries" where the migrants come from or transit through on their journeys to Europe's borders.

"The drama of Lampedusa is a European issue," Mr Letta said, referring to the Italian island where thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from north Africa have landed this year.

A boat carrying mainly Eritrean asylum-seekers caught fire, capsized and sank within sight of the coast of Lampedusa on Oct 3, killing 364 migrants in Italy's worst refugee disaster.

On Oct 12, another boat with Syrian refugees capsized in high seas between Lampedusa and Malta.

Thirty-six bodies were recovered but officials said the death toll may have been 200 people.

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