EU leaders pledged Friday to do everything possible to deter migrants from embarking on hazardous sea voyages to reach Europe, after more than 360 died in October when their boat sank off Italy's Lampedusa island.
"The European Council calls for the mobilization of all efforts" to discourage migrants, who come mostly from Africa, seeking to reach Europe's shores, the bloc's 28 leaders said at a two-day summit in Brussels.
"Increased engagement with third countries in order to avoid that migrants embark on hazardous journeys towards the European Union should be a priority," a statement said.
They suggested information campaigns as well as an effective policy to send migrants back to their home countries.
But some advocates for protection of asylum-seeking migrants say the measures EU leaders agreed to Friday don't go far enough.
In a press release, Human Rights Watch said that the measures offer few if new measures and those that are new have little substance.
"It's no surprise the European Council endorsed the task force recommendations, since they are the compromise result of negotiations among member states," said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"It's disappointing, though, to see that the overall focus is on preventing people from reaching Europe, rather than on saving lives."
The leaders said they will re-examine the issue in June 2014.
Immigration charities estimate between 17,000 and 20,000 migrants have died at sea trying to reach Europe in the past 20 years.
One of the worst Mediterranean migrant tragedies occurred on Oct. 3 off Lampedusa, when a boat overloaded with refugees, mostly fleeing Somalia and Eritrea, caught fire and capsized.
The shipwreck claimed 366 lives, prompting calls for an overhaul of European migration and asylum policies.
Al Jazeera and AFP