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World

European Leaders Vow To Do More To Help Arriving Migrants

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

European leaders say it is time to target the smugglers who lead migrants across the Mediterranean. They are massively increasing their operations after a devastating weekend. Hundreds of people died as an overcrowded boat capsized. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports on the European Union response.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: EU President Donald Tusk said last night that member states will triple the money they spend on the ongoing EU operation patrolling the Mediterranean. That brings the total to nearly $10 million a month.

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DONALD TUSK: Europe did not cause this tragedy, but that doesn't mean we can be indifferent. We are facing a difficult summer, and we need to be ready to act.

NELSON: Besides the money, their priorities include capturing and destroying smugglers' vessels, possibly with military strikes, and increased targeting of migrant trafficking networks. How the EU plans to deal with migrants given permission to stay in Europe is less clear. Tusk says the 28 leaders agreed to increase their resettlement of refugees, although only on a voluntary basis as is currently the case. That's left five EU countries handling 70 percent of the influx.

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CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: German Chancellor Angela Merkel explains the top priority for European leaders is saving human lives. Her country was among those pledging to send more navy ships to help conduct search and rescue operations. But critics of the emerging action plan to be finalized in June complain it isn't likely to stop the ever-growing, often deadly flow of migrants to European shores. One critic is European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

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MARTIN SCHULZ: (Speaking German).

NELSON: He says, "we need to be clear that this crisis is one we can overcome if we want to. And we need to be sure that we address the reasons migrants flee and not just the smugglers." Hundreds of protesters who staged a mock funeral march outside the summit also expressed disappointment. They carried empty coffins and signs that read, we are not dangerous; we are in danger. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.