EU states told to tackle health challenges of migrant emergency

Migrants rescued off the Libyan coast arrive at the harbor in Catania, Italy, on April 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Alberto Pizzoli) (AFP/File)

Riga (AFP) - The European Commission on Tuesday urged EU members to tackle the health challenges posed by the influx of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean, including sharing hospital resources.

"The emergency is there, now, it's concrete," Commission official Ladislav Miko told reporters in Latvia's capital Riga.

There was "suffering which needs to be addressed very fast," he added.

Miko said EU states faced by the migrant crisis, such as Italy or Spain, were unable to handle "hundreds of patients in a single day" who were dehydrated and required hospital care.

He suggested moving migrant patients to hospitals in countries less directly affected by the crisis along with the rapid deployment of emergency kits, logistical support and vaccines.

Some 11,000 migrants have been rescued since the middle of last week alone and current trends suggest last year's total of 170,000 landing in Italy is likely to be exceeded in 2015.

More than 1,750 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean since the start of the year -- 30 times more than in the same period of 2014, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.

Miko said the commission had asked the most affected states including Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus, to outline their immediate needs and had called an urgent meeting of its health security committee for Tuesday.

Cyprus notably mentioned that "the government requires the assistance of other countries to transport these patients," said Latvian Health Minister Guntis Belevics, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating six-month presidency.

"Cyprus, Malta, Greece and other southern countries asked the EU to share the expenditure required."

At talks in Luxembourg on Monday, EU ministers agreed on a 10-point plan to double the resources available to the bloc's much-criticised maritime border patrol mission Triton, and further measures will be discussed at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday.