"The situation on the central Mediterranean route, that is from Libya to Italy, still remains critical. In order to address it, we need solidarity and cooperation of the international community… Our objective should be to effectively stop this wave at its source, namely in North Africa. This is the main task for the EU. In this respect Italy can count on Europe’s help in every dimension. But this cannot mean a wider opening of Europe’s door towards illegal migration. That is why here at the G20 I will call on all the leaders to be ruthless in their fight against smugglers," Tusk said during his press conference at the G20 summit currently underway in the German city of Hamburg.
The European Council president pointed out that the fight against smugglers is linked to the fight against terrorism.
"Migrant smuggling is an organized business, last year [it] generated $1.6 billion in Libya alone. These profits allow the smugglers to control some parts of the country. They also cooperate with terrorists and further undermine the stabilization in Libya," Tusk said in his press conference opening remarks.
He added that the smuggling business also leads to loss of innocent lives, with more than 2,000 people perishing at sea and "even higher" numbers dying in the desert, and called for punitive measures against those networks.
"We need more efforts at the international level to break the smugglers’ business model. This is why I will propose to all the G20 leaders to pursue targeted UN sanctions against smugglers. By this I mean asset freezes and travel bans. It is the very minimum that can be done on the global level," the European Council president said.
He noted that even these measures do not have enough support, and further reluctance would be "sad proof of the hypocrisy of some of the G20 members" to fight the smuggling groups.
In 2017, more than 85,000 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea, with arrivals to Italy up 19 percent compared to last year, according to UN Migration Agency’s Tuesday report.