Europe

EU chief says bloc capable of cutting Libya migrant route

  • FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2017 file photo, sub-Saharan migrants raise their hands to grab a life jacket as they are rescued by members of the Proactive Open Arms NGO, in the Mediterranean Sea north of Zumarah, Libya. European Union President Donald Tusk said on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, that a summit on migration on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, is poised to take a big step in closing off the illegal migration route through the central Mediterranean where thousands have died over the past several years trying to reach the EU from Libya. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

    FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2017 file photo, sub-Saharan migrants raise their hands to grab a life jacket as they are rescued by members of the Proactive Open Arms NGO, in the Mediterranean Sea north of Zumarah, Libya. European Union President Donald Tusk said on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, that a summit on migration on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, is poised to take a big step in closing off the illegal migration route through the central Mediterranean where thousands have died over the past several years trying to reach the EU from Libya. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • A Maltese army soldier stands in front of the main gate of the the Auberge de Castille palace, Premier's office, on the eve of an EU Summit, in Valletta, Malta, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.  27 European heads of state will meet in Malta on Friday for an informal summit to discuss migration and the future of the EU. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    A Maltese army soldier stands in front of the main gate of the the Auberge de Castille palace, Premier's office, on the eve of an EU Summit, in Valletta, Malta, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. 27 European heads of state will meet in Malta on Friday for an informal summit to discuss migration and the future of the EU. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • A Maltese army soldier stands in front of the main gate of the the Auberge de Castille palace, Premier's office, on the eve of an EU Summit, in Valletta, Malta, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.  27 European heads of state will meet in Malta on Friday for an informal summit to discuss migration and the future of the EU. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    A Maltese army soldier stands in front of the main gate of the the Auberge de Castille palace, Premier's office, on the eve of an EU Summit, in Valletta, Malta, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. 27 European heads of state will meet in Malta on Friday for an informal summit to discuss migration and the future of the EU. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

The European Union chief says that Friday's summit on migration is poised to take a big step in closing off the illegal migration route through the central Mediterranean where thousands have died over the past several years trying to reach the EU from Libya.

EU President Donald Tusk said Thursday after talks with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni that "I can assure you that it is within our reach" to cut off the smuggling routes, as expectations are rising that drownings will increase as the spring weather comes.

Tusk said that "we owe it first and foremost to those who suffer and risk their lives. But we also owe it to Italians and all Europeans." Most migrants coming through Libya are economic migrants with little chance of being granted asylum.