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  • Migrants are helped as they disembark from a Coast Guard boat in the Sicilian harbour of Palermo April 18, 2015.

    Migrants are helped as they disembark from a Coast Guard boat in the Sicilian harbour of Palermo April 18, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 April 2015

The move comes after 700 sub-Saharan African migrants are feared drowned after their boat capsized.

The president of the European Union is considering holding an emergency summit in light of the latest migrant boat catastrophe in the Mediterranean in which around 700 people are believed to have drowned.

Donald Tusk posted on Twitter that he had been in talks with Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat” and "will continue talks w/ EU leaders, Commission & EEAS on how to alleviate situation.”

The E.U. chief would establish if he would call a summit after these meetings, his spokesperson told AFP.

On Sunday morning, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi asked his E.U. counterparts for an emergency meeting on the asylum seekers drowning crisis, after the most recent case of a capsized boat containing mostly sub-Saharan Africans.

Early this month Italian navy and coast guard ships rescued more than 1,500 migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa, from the southern Mediterranean in a 24-hour span. 

Over the last couple of years, an increasing number of migrants fleeing wars and violence in Africa and the Middle East have been attempting to cross into Europe through the Mediterranean. 

According to the U.N. refugee agency about 170,000 migrants entered Europe through Italy last year by way of the dangerous sea crossing organized by human traffickers. More than 3,000 perished at sea, with the majority of the vessels departing from Libya.

If the 700 missing are confirmed dead, the number of Mediterranean drownings this year would surpass 1,500, 50 times greater than at the same point in 2014.

The Italian government has said it will continue rescuing migrants but has repeatedly demanded to the European Union to increase its assistance to shelter and rescue them. 

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