EU chief says bloc capable of cutting Libya migrant route

VALLETTA: 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.