- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

CATANIA, Sicily (AP) - An Italian rescue patrol picked up nearly 100 migrants who reported being at sea for 12 days as U.N. Security Council members mulled a draft resolution authorizing an EU mission to seize the smugglers’ boats that are fueling the Mediterranean migrant crisis.

The developments came as hundreds of other migrants arrived in Italian ports after having been rescued in recent days from overcrowded dinghies and fishing boats. Most have been setting off from Libya, where human traffickers charging migrants around $1,000 apiece for the crossing are operating with near-impunity amid the country’s political chaos.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, is to brief the Security Council on Monday about the crisis and the need to coordinate the fight against traffickers, her office said.

A draft resolution prepared by European council members would authorize an EU mission for one year to seize boats where there is credible evidence they’re being used by smugglers, a council diplomat said Wednesday in New York. The resolution, which would be militarily enforceable and is expected to circulate in the coming days, would cover the high seas, Libya’s territorial waters and the coast, though the mission members could also go on land.

Some European Union leaders had proposed a U.N.-blessed operation to destroy smugglers’ boats before they are used. The idea, however, has raised a host of legal concerns and Russia - which has veto power at the Security Council - has already opposed any ship-destruction resolution.

“Apprehending human traffickers and actually arresting those vessels is one thing, but destroying them would be going too far,” Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told reporters in Brussels.

However, Russia is said to support the draft resolution calling for the ships to be seized, said the council diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to provide details of the negotiations.

The diplomat stressed that the resolution, which is expected to be approved before a May 18 EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, is aimed at reducing migrants’ suffering, not adding to it, even though details about how their plight will be addressed are still being worked out.

As the diplomatic process wears on, the migrants keep coming.

Two coast guard rescue boats brought 650 migrants ashore Wednesday in Roccella Ionica, an Italian port in the southern Calabria region, while an equal number arrived in Naples. Hundreds more were brought ashore in rescue boats to the Italian cities of La Spezia, Taranto, Messina and elsewhere.

Still at sea was the Italian border patrol ship Monte Cimone, which intercepted a 50-meter (164-foot) migrant boat carrying 98 passengers who reported having been at sea for 12 days before being rescued. A third of the passengers were women, and three of them were pregnant.

The border patrol said the migrants had spent the last two days adrift some 200 kilometers (125 miles) off Sicily, without food or water and with the ship’s hold flooding.


Winfield reported from Rome and Anna from New York. AP writers Lorne Cook and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed.

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