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EU Pledges $40 Million to Italy to Help With Migrants

  • VOA News

Italian police escort a Tunisian man suspected of being the driver of a migrant boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa nearly a week ago, as they arrive at Porto Empedocle late at night in this still image taken from video, Oct. 8, 2013.

Italian police escort a Tunisian man suspected of being the driver of a migrant boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa nearly a week ago, as they arrive at Porto Empedocle late at night in this still image taken from video, Oct. 8, 2013.

The European Union has pledged to give Italy an additional $40 million to deal with its refugee crisis, in the wake of last week's boat accident that left at least 275 migrants dead.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso announced the additional funding on Wednesday as he visited the the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Divers are still recovering bodies from the vessel carrying as many as 500 African migrants that sunk near the island. Only 155 people were rescued.

A small group of activists heckled Barroso as he arrived in Lampedusa. Islanders have long complained that they receive little support to cope with the thousands of migrants who come ashore each year.

Lampedusa is geographically closer to Africa than it is to Italy's mainland, making the island a destination for Africans hoping to start a new life in Europe.

On Tuesday, Italian authorities detained a Tunisian man who is believed to have been the captain of the ill-fated boat that sunk last week.

Also Tuesday, the EU proposed setting up search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean to intercept migrant boats.

The boat capsized and sunk after someone set a fire on board in an effort to draw attention from passing ships.
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