EUROPEAN UNION foreign ministers have agreed on a plan to use military resources to monitor people smuggling from Libya across the Mediterranean. In an effort to tackle the growing crisis – which has seen thousands lose their lives in the last few months attempting to make the crossing to Europe – at least 10 countries will contribute boats, aircraft and drones to the deployment.
The EU head of foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, told assembled EU representatives: “I am impressed by the unanimity and speed with which we have put this together.”
The surveillance mission will have to operate outside Libyan territorial waters, as it does not have the endorsement of the UN, nor either of the two rival governments currently competing for power in Libya. Britain, Spain, France and Lithuania have been drafting a resolution for the UN Security Council which would sanction the use of force against traffickers.
Announcing the operation, which will launch in the next few days, Mogherini said: “Let me be very clear – the targets are not the migrants, the targets are those that are making money on their lives and too often on their deaths. It is part of our effort to save lives.”
Human rights organisations have raised questions on whether the approach is, in isolation, the right one.
Aspasia Papadopoulou, of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said:
“If one looks at the nationalities of the people who are [arriving by boat] they are Syrians and Eritreans – these are people that are fleeing for their life. They are fleeing conflicts and dictatorships and they will leave no matter what. If [the EU] tries to address smugglin EN Security Council g and trafficking only, it is only addressing the symptoms. But if you want to put smugglers out of business you need to create the opportunity for people to come legally.”
Mogherini said that surveillance of trafficking, before any further interventions were considered to prevent it, was part of a wider approach: “We also work on an everyday basis on the root causes, namely poverty and crises and conflicts in particular in Syria, in Yemen and in Libya, as well as with the UN agencies dealing with migrants and refugees in countries of transit.”