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Taoiseach: 'The equivalent of three jumbo jets were lost in the Mediterranean'

Once it has been approved by the UN security council, however.

ENDA KENNY HAS said that there is real urgency to deal with the soaring number of migrants dying as they seek a better life in Europe.

“The equivalent of three jumbo jets have been lost in the Mediterranean,” he said today following a meeting with the French Prime Minister, referring to the recent capsizing of a migrant boat off Libya.

He had just returned from an emergency EU meeting where it was decided that Britain and France would seek UN approval for an EU military operation against people smugglers.

Ireland looks set to lend a naval vessel to the humanitarian effort.

At the crisis talks in Brussels, EU leaders also decided to triple funds for the bloc’s maritime search and rescue operation, as horrific details continued to emerge of last weekend’s shipwreck that saw hundreds drown in the Mediterranean’s worst migrant disaster.

European Council President Donald Tusk said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had been tasked to “propose action in order to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used.”

Italy Europe Migrants Migrants wait to disembark from an Italian Finance Police vessel. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi added that leaders from France and Britain — both permanent members of the UN Security Council — had “committed to get a resolution from the United Nations for an intervention in Libya.”

But leaders failed to agree on concrete action over the sensitive issue of what to do with migrants — many of whom depart from chaos-ridden Libya — once they land on European shores.

“I had hoped we could have been more ambitious but that was not possible,” EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said at a post-summit press briefing.

Ahead of the high-profile gathering, poignant events had taken place in Malta and Brussels to try and highlight the tragic human dimension of migrant shipwrecks.

Already, more than 1,750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year — 30 times more than the same period in 2014.

Speaking in Brussels yesterday, the Taoiseach said an extra million euro in funding for the Red Cross in Libya had been approved, and said a ship could be deployed:

Depending on the caveats of the legal requirements here, in respect of the search and rescue for the humanitarian functions, we are prepared to allocate a fully crewed and equipped naval vessel once the legal clarifications become clear.

“This is a mounting humanitarian and political crisis. The equivalent of almost three jumbo jets have been lost here.”

PastedImage-72296 European Council TV Newsroom European Council TV Newsroom

Malta honoured the more than 750 victims of last weekend’s shipwreck with an inter-faith funeral service — the wooden coffins of 24 of the dead carried away by soldiers for private burials.

Dozens of migrants in Brussels staged a protest near the EU summit venue, attaching pieces of paper with the names of people who had died onto barbed wire put up as a security measure.

“Esther Down, 9 months old, Nigeria, drowned,” read one of the signs.

Europe Migrants Summit A protestor holds up a sign as others carry a mock coffin of a migrant during the demonstration outside of an emergency EU summit in Brussels. Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP/Press Association Images Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

As he arrived at the summit, Prime Minister David Cameron offered to deploy Britain’s flagship HMS Bulwark, three helicopters and two patrol ships to the Mediterranean, but stressed any migrant rescued would not have “immediate recourse to claim asylum in the UK.”

Other countries also offered up ships to enhance the effectiveness of the Triton search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean.

French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, said any decision to destroy the traffickers’ ships would have to be in line with international law.

“It can only be done through a resolution of the Security Council,” he said.

Italy Europe Migrants Migrants wait to enter a Red Cross tent in the harbor of Catania, Sicily, southern Italy. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Hollande added that he would raise the issue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when he meets him on Friday.

But experts have questioned the feasibility of a military response to the crisis.

“It’s not an easy task to go shoot down boats in Libyan ports,” a European source who wished to remain anonymous said.

He pointed out that the radical Islamic State group was in control of parts of chaos-ridden Libya.

They will be delighted to see European soldiers come to them, they are potentially easy targets.

© AFP 2015 with Sinéad O’Carroll and Hugh O’Connell 

Read: The internet responded to Katie Hopkins calling migrants “cockroaches” by raising £25,000 to rescue them >

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