EU chief urges asylum reform after Italy migrant deaths



European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday called for progress on a stalled reform of EU asylum rules after the deaths of more than 50 migrants off Italy.

At least 59 people died, including 12 children, when a wooden sailing boat carrying migrants to Europe crashed against rocks near the southern Italian coast early on Sunday, authorities said.

Von der Leyen tweeted that the deaths earlier Sunday, when an overloaded boat carrying around 120 migrants sank, was a "tragedy" that left her "deeply saddened."

"We must redouble our efforts on the (EU) Pact on Migration and Asylum and on the Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean," she said.

The Commission referred AFP queries about the role of EU's border agency Frontex in monitoring the area where the boat sank to Frontex, which is based in Warsaw.

Frontex, which has an 11-billion-euro ($12-billion) budget over 2021-2027, gets near real-time, high-resolution monitoring images from the EU's Copernicus satellite and airborne monitoring system.

Frontex runs Operation Themis, whose mission is to "support Italy with border control, surveillance and search and rescue in the Central Mediterranean."