Mediterranean migrants crisis
Migrants wait to disembark from a tug boat in the Sicilian harbour of Trapani Reuters

The Italian government said the European Union should set up refugee camps in countries bordering with Libya to stop asylum seekers before they reach Mediterranean shores, as a way of resolving the current migrant crisis.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told lawmakers in Rome that asylum requests should be processed in dedicated structures managed by the EU, with UN assistance in Tunisia, Niger and Sudan.

"We are asking Europe to be Europe, not just when it's time to devise a budget," he said.

Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti added that a coordinated military effort against human smugglers must also be launched to stop the deadly flow.

"We know where the smugglers keep their boats, where they gather," Pinotti told Sky TG24 TV. "The plans for military intervention are there."

Rome is to suggest those measures are taken at an EU leaders' emergency summit in Brussels tomorrow (23 April). The meeting was called after up to 950 would-be-refugees died in a single incident at the weekend, as their boat crashed with a rescue vessel and capsized off Libya.

"We think it's the moment in which Europe decides, forcefully, to have an international police operation, which will undo this band of criminals," Pinotti said.

According to estimates, more than 200,000 migrants have successfully reached Europe via boat over the past 15 months. Another 5,000 are believed to have died trying, of which 1,700 perished in the first four months of 2015 only.

In March, the European Union's border agency chief warned up to one million migrants are expected to attempt crossing the Mediterranean from Libya before the end of 2015.

In the latest arrival, more than 440 Syrian, Eritrean, Palestinian and Sudanese migrants were taken by an Italian navy ship to the Sicilian port of Augusta this morning, after their vessel was rescued off the coast of Calabria.

Greece, which with Italy is a main arrival destination for migrants dreaming of a better life in Europe, also urged northern EU governments to do more to help their southern allies cope with the inflow.

Deputy Defence Minister Kostas Isichos told the BBC Europe "great powers" must help more in the rescue and shelter of asylum seekers. For many, in fact, southern Europe is just a gateway to reach other countries such as Germany, Sweden and Great Britain.