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Hundreds of migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this month, amid a surge in overcrowded boats heading for Europe from Libya.

The flow of desperate migrants from North Africa hoping to reach Europe is already much higher than in the same period last year.

Italy is on the frontline and has urged its EU partners to do more to help.

At an emergency summit on 23 April EU leaders pledged to beef up the bloc’s maritime patrols in the Mediterranean, disrupt people trafficking networks and capture and destroy boats before migrants board them.

However, any military action would have to conform with international law. The chaos in war-torn Libya remains a huge problem.

Championing the rights of poor migrants is difficult as the economic climate is still gloomy, many Europeans are unemployed and wary of foreign workers, and EU countries are divided over how to share the refugee burden.

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