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EU leaders are due to hold an emergency summit on ways to stem the number of migrants risking the perilous journey across from African to the Mediterranean. The draft proposals include a push for a military mandate to destroy boats used by people traffickers. As reported earlier, more than 800 people drowned off the coast of Libya on Sunday, and this year alone the Mediterranean sea has claimed more than 1750 lives.

Italian PM Matteo Renzi has described people smugglers as the slave traders of the 21st Century and he called for direct action against people smugglers. A draft statement for Thursday’s meeting in Brussels, says leaders will commit to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”.

According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres a co-ordinated response was needed to save lives.

He said, our ability to save lives at sea has to be guaranteed, because the current situation is a tremendous tragedy, and today we know that the fact that there is no effective rescue operation in place, has not reduced but rather increased the number of people who try to cross the Mediterranean. He added, there are people traffickers. And we have to take a very tough line with these people who violate human rights.

Due to the rise in the number of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa in recent months, has led to huge numbers of people trying to reach Europe in unseaworthy and often overcrowded vessels.

The International Organisation for Migration says there have been 30 times as many deaths so far in 2015 as in the same period last year and the figure could rise to 30,000. More than 500 people rescued from several other boats were brought ashore by Italian coastguards on Wednesday.