Malta's call for an urgent EU mission in Libya to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe has been backed by several member states, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

On Monday, Minister Evarist Bartolo said Malta was demanding an EU humanitarian mission in Libya and the delivery of €100 million worth of food, medicines and medical equipment before the situation there worsened.

He said that Italy and Malta had closed their ports because their resources are fully taken up on controlling the COVID-19 pandemic

Since then, at least five migrants have died at sea. Another seven are missing, also presumed dead.

A further 37 are in desperate need of medical help.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry told Times of Malta on Friday that Malta’s proposal had kicked off institutional discussions within the European Commission, as well as among member states.

To that end, it will be discussed as a dedicated agenda item during the next Foreign Affairs Council on April 22, the eve of the European Council.

Several member states have "already signaled support for Malta's proposal". 

"While fully aware of the complexity of the situation in Libya and the sensitivity of discussions concerning any possible EU Mission, Malta remains optimistic that the European Union will positively consider the call for an urgent humanitarian mission – if only for the sake of the 900,000 persons in Libya identified by the United Nations as being in urgent need for humanitarian assistance, half of them being women and children, and a third being refugees and migrants."

Malta will continue to take a constructive approach in supporting the EU in identifying a sustainable and predictable European migration policy which can only work as long as it is a genuine balance between responsibility and solidarity," a spokesperson for the ministry added.

On Thursday, the special envoy of the UNHCR for the Central Mediterranean slammed the inaction of Mediterranean states after migrants died on a boat which drifted at sea for days.

This boat should never have been left drifting and the deaths could have been avoided, Vincent Cochetel wrote in a tweet.

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