1 of 2
Virginia Mayo, Associated Press
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, center left, and European Council President Donald Tusk, center right, walk through the atrium during an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. EU leaders told British Prime Minister Theresa May Thursday to match her goodwill pledges to boost Brexit negotiations with concrete proposals if she really wants to start discussing a future trade deal with the EU by December.

BRUSSELS — The European Union has agreed to increase funding to help Italy keep migrants from arriving in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, European Council President Donald Tusk announced Thursday.

Tusk said members of the 28-member bloc will provide "sufficient finances" to Italy and that the European Commission will ensure the money goes to fighting "illegal migration."

"We have a real chance of closing the Central Mediterranean route," said Tusk, who leads the institution that comprises the heads of government of all EU member states.

1 comment on this story

After struggling for years with large numbers of migrants arriving on its shores, Italy managed to reduce the numbers in the last few months by sending naval units to Libya's coast to help the local coast guard while making deals with Libyan militias to prevent migrants from leaving.

Aid workers, however, say a humanitarian catastrophe is brewing in Libya as migrants get trapped there in detention centers where they are mistreated.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel also said EU leaders agreed they need to do more to ensure that their measures in Africa take into account shifting migration routes. He said the discussion on migration focused on the need to "find a balance between solidarity and responsibility."