World

EU commission chief laments phase out of Italian migrant mission

  • In this picture taken on Nov. 27, 2014 and made available on April 28, 2015, the Portuguese Navy vessel 'P360 Viana Do Castelo ', then deployed by Frontex, arrives at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbor, Italy. Border agents are so busy dealing with the record number of migrants entering the European Union that they can no longer screen people properly, leaving them to slip deeper into the EU unidentified, Europe's border agency Frontex said Tuesday, April 28, 2015. In its migration analysis for 2015, Frontex said resources are focused on migrants' "immediate care, rather than screening or obtaining information on their basic characteristics such as nationality." (AP Photo/Francesco Malavolta)

    In this picture taken on Nov. 27, 2014 and made available on April 28, 2015, the Portuguese Navy vessel 'P360 Viana Do Castelo ', then deployed by Frontex, arrives at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbor, Italy. Border agents are so busy dealing with the record number of migrants entering the European Union that they can no longer screen people properly, leaving them to slip deeper into the EU unidentified, Europe's border agency Frontex said Tuesday, April 28, 2015. In its migration analysis for 2015, Frontex said resources are focused on migrants' "immediate care, rather than screening or obtaining information on their basic characteristics such as nationality." (AP Photo/Francesco Malavolta)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this picture taken on Nov. 27, 2014 and made available on April 28, 2015, migrants wait to disembark from the Portuguese Navy vessel 'P360 Viana Do Castelo ', then deployed by Frontex, at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbor, Italy. Border agents are so busy dealing with the record number of migrants entering the European Union that they can no longer screen people properly, leaving them to slip deeper into the EU unidentified, Europe's border agency Frontex said Tuesday, April 28, 2015. In its migration analysis for 2015, Frontex said resources are focused on migrants' "immediate care, rather than screening or obtaining information on their basic characteristics such as nationality." (AP Photo/Francesco Malavolta)

    In this picture taken on Nov. 27, 2014 and made available on April 28, 2015, migrants wait to disembark from the Portuguese Navy vessel 'P360 Viana Do Castelo ', then deployed by Frontex, at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbor, Italy. Border agents are so busy dealing with the record number of migrants entering the European Union that they can no longer screen people properly, leaving them to slip deeper into the EU unidentified, Europe's border agency Frontex said Tuesday, April 28, 2015. In its migration analysis for 2015, Frontex said resources are focused on migrants' "immediate care, rather than screening or obtaining information on their basic characteristics such as nationality." (AP Photo/Francesco Malavolta)  (The Associated Press)

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a media conference after an emergency EU summit at the EU Council building in Brussels on Thursday, April 23, 2015. EU leaders on Thursday committed extra ships, planes and helicopters to save lives in the Mediterranean at an emergency summit convened after hundreds of migrants drowned in the space of a few days. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a media conference after an emergency EU summit at the EU Council building in Brussels on Thursday, April 23, 2015. EU leaders on Thursday committed extra ships, planes and helicopters to save lives in the Mediterranean at an emergency summit convened after hundreds of migrants drowned in the space of a few days. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says it was a serious error to have ended Italy's migrant search and rescue effort last year and to have left one country alone to bear the mission's costs.

Juncker told European Union lawmakers Wednesday that it was "a grave mistake."

The Italian emergency operation Mare Nostrum was phased out late last year. It was expensive and politically unpopular in Italy even though it plucked tens of thousands from the Mediterranean in 2013-2014.

An estimated 1,700 people have died so far this year fleeing war and poverty via conflict-torn Libya for a better life in Europe.

EU leaders pledged last week to double the equipment and triple the budget of the European border agency mission in the Mediterranean.