EU leaders meet in Malta on migration as refugees continue to come, die

Refugees face tough winter weather ahead
Refugees face tough winter weather ahead

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Refugees face tough winter weather ahead 07:35

Story highlights

  • EU leaders offer aid to Africa in an effort to stem the migrant crisis
  • Germany is again sending migrants back to countries where they first entered the EU
  • At least 18 people died Wednesday in two boat accidents off the Turkish coast

(CNN)Maybe the sixth time will be the charm for European leaders trying to forge a unified response to the EU's migration crisis. This time, they're meeting with African leaders on the tiny island nation of Malta and are ready to offer them at least $1.93 billion to stem the tide of migrants.

Five times before, the presidents and prime ministers of the 28 countries in the European Union have tried to tackle the issue. Yet Europe's response to the wave of desperate families seeking entry to the EU remains, by most accounts, fragmented and chaotic.
    With more aid to Africa, the EU wants a crackdown on smuggling rings and return policies for migrants.
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said African countries need to fight poverty and become more transparent to make sure the "youth of the continent has a chance." This exchange in Malta is important, she said, because Africa's cooperation is needed to defeat smugglers and traffickers of migrants.
    European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the world these days is focused on migrants using the west Balkan route, "but most migrants from West Africa and the Horn of Africa use the central Mediterranean route to reach Europe," he said.
    It's the most dangerous route and holds the record for fatalities, Schulz told those gathered for the two-day meeting .
    On the Balkan side of things, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusic told CNN that her country has been seeing about 5,000 migrants a day -- and sometimes as many as 10,000. As many as 360,000 migrants -- the majority of whom see Germany as their ultimate destination -- have passed through Croatia en route to Slovenia and then Austria.
    "We're coping. We have prepared winter camps," she said.
    Pusic denied reports that her country has "dumped" migrants on the Slovenia, saying Croatia has organized acceptance centers and provided medical attention in an attempt to keep the thousands of migrants off the streets and highways.

    27 rescued off Turkish coast

    Meanwhile, people desperate to escape the violence of the Middle East continue to flock to Europe. And they continue to die in the attempt.
    On Wednesday, hours before the EU meeting was scheduled to convene, at least 18 people died off the western coast of Turkey in two boat incidents.
    Fourteen people were found dead by the Turkish coast guard in a half-submerged wooden boat, with 27 people alive on board. The boat sank somewhere near the Turkish towns of Ayvacik and Babakale and apparently had been trying to get to the Greek island of Lesbos just 6 miles (10 kilometers) away, CNN Turk reported.
    A second boat was recovered by the Turkish coast guard with 22 migrants on board and four bodies in the water.

    Just 147 of a planned 160,000 refugees relocated

    The meeting also came amid clear signals that previous meetings have produced few concrete results.
    A meeting in September, for example, was billed as the moment when Europe finally took responsibility for the influx of desperate people arriving on its shores.
    In late September, European leaders agreed on a plan to relocate 160,000 migrants from the countries they're flooding into -- mainly Greece and Italy.
    Seven weeks later, the plan has barely gotten off the ground, according to new statistics released by the European Commission: Of the 160,000 refugees targeted, the EU has relocated just 147.

    Germany may receive 1 million refugees this year

    And there are signs of disunity among EU countries. During the summer, Germany suspended the Dublin Regulation, under which refugees must register in the EU country in which they first arrive and can be sent back there from other EU countries if they don't.
    That is to say that Germany went ahead and processed refugee applications for people who reached Germany after traveling across other EU countries.
    Now, Germany is reapplying the regulation for all EU countries except Greece, a German Interior Ministry spokesman said Tuesday, according to the DPA press agency.
    Merkel, the German chancellor, has faced criticism for suspending the regulation, with opponents saying her decision had encouraged many more people to come to Germany.
    Officially, Germany expects to receive 800,000 refugees this year, four times the number it received in 2014. Some estimates put the figure at more than 1 million.