European Union leaders pledged more money Thursday to help Italy work with Libya to stem the flow of migrants from North Africa trying to get to Europe.
“We have a real chance of closing the central Mediterranean route,” European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters at a Brussels summit.
Tusk was referring to the extremely dangerous sea crossing between Libya and Italy’s Lampedusa island — the first EU territory the migrants encounter. Thousands have died trying to cross the Mediterranean on unsafe boats or after being left on their own by human smugglers.
Italian officials say the number of migrants leaving Libyan shores has dropped 20 percent in 2017, since Italy began working with Libya to stop the flow. This includes Italy providing more training to the Libyan coast guard to crack down on human smugglers and rescuing migrants stranded at sea.
Italy has been demanding more money and help from the EU for several years.
“Member states so far have committed 175 million euros [$207 million]. This is clearly not enough,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.